Muslims face stark choice: join talks or accept defeat

THE CLINTON administration has joined the European allies in urging the Bosnian government to attend peace talks now due to open in Geneva on Tuesday or face near-certain defeat at the hands of the Serbs and Croats.

The advice reflects a deepening mood of resignation among the allies that, as Serb forces tighten their hold on Sarejevo, the military position of the Muslims has become hopeless, and that surrender may be forced upon them in a matter of weeks. It is also a final signal to the Bosnian government that it should abandon any hope of last-minute military intervention by the West.

'We are explaining to them that they have only two alternatives: to continue fighting in a deteriorating situation or start negotiating,' a senior Western official confirmed in Washington.

But even as the advice was issued, there were suggestions that the Serbian leadership was considering boycotting the talks, preferring to crush the Muslims militarily.

The Geneva talks, which the Bosnian government agreed to attend on Tuesday if today's ceasefire in Sarajevo holds, are based on a joint Serbian-Croatian plan that would partition Bosnia's territory into Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian Muslim mini-states.

'I question whether a meeting at this juncture could be called negotiations without misusing the word,' the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, said in a letter to the co-chairmen of the talks, Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg. He suggested instead that the talks should be postponed indefinitely.

This possibility, in the light of the White House position, has caused an outcry and increased pressure on the Clinton administration for action.

In an open letter drafted by Representative Frank McCloskey, a Democrat, a group of 78 Congressmen urged Mr Clinton to use force to break the siege of Sarajevo. 'We are writing this open letter to appeal to you to take the immediate action necessary to save the 380,000 residents of Sarajevo from a humanitarian disaster of immense magnitude.' It asked the President to issue a 72-hour deadline for the Serbs to cease fire, withdraw from positions surrounding the city and remove their blockades, or face action by Nato warplanes.

The US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, caused uproar last week when he all but admitted that Washington had given up hope of helping Bosnia to repel the Serbian and Croatian onslaught. The US, he told journalists on Wednesday, is 'doing all it can consistent with our national interests'.

The American Jewish Congress, in a letter to Mr Clinton, criticised Mr Christopher's remarks. 'The cold indifference to the massive human catastrophe in Bosnia expressed by your administration's policy constitutes a betrayal of fundamental American values, no less than America's national interest,' the group said.

On Thursday, President Clinton attempted to dress up Mr Christopher's remarks in more positive language. 'That is not true that we are giving up on it . . . We have aggressively committed ourselves to the process in Geneva,' the President insisted. 'We are continuing to work with the Europeans on other options.'

Although Mr Clinton has endorsed lifting the arms embargo on Bosnia and using air strikes to help to protect Muslim enclaves, he has in effect stopped pushing for that strategy in the face of European opposition. The remaining options appear to be those already agreed and implemented: economic sanctions against Serbia and enforcement of the Bosnia no-fly zone. The only possible new initiative may be to activate allied plans to provide Nato air cover for UN forces protecting the six remaining 'safe havens' in Bosnia.

Should a peace plan arise out of Geneva, the US may once again have to decide whether to send ground troops to the region. President Clinton has said only that America would 'participate' in the implementation of any truce.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas