Owen outraged as Serbs reject new peace plan

THE UN peace plan for Bosnia appeared dead in the water yesterday as Western powers moved towards the use of force against the Serbs.

Lord Owen, the peace envoy, stormed out of Belgrade after the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, rejected a new peace plan for a demilitarised corridor linking Serbian enclaves in Bosnia. He warned that Mr Karadzic 'is risking driving his people in Bosnia and possibly all Serbs into a devastating conflict with the international community'.

The rejection came amid increasing signs that the United States, Britain and France were likely to agree on air strikes to stop the the Serbian advance in Bosnia. The West has already agreed to enforce tougher sanctions against Serbia. According to Washington sources, President Clinton has decided to use air strikes to protect Muslim towns. The air umbrella will cover Srebrenica, Tuzla and Gorazde, and will be preceded by an ultimatum to Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs. US aircraft overflying Bosnia to enforce the no-fly zone established by the United Nations have already identified and photographed Serbian artillery positions. Yesterday the likelihood of Europe backing such moves rose sharply with the Bosnian Serbs' rejection of the Owen plan.

Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, informed his EC colleagues he had offered support to the 150 Canadian troops who are surrounded by Serbs in Srebrenica. The UN deployed the Canadians to protect the town after a bloody year-long siege ended with a truce and the evacuation of thousands of injured Muslims.

Britain's commitment opens up a much greater range of military options to deter aggression from the Bosnian Serbs, recreating the 'safe haven' approach proposed by Britain and used in northern Iraq. The Ministry of Defence has offered to support the Canadians if they come under heavy attack, with whatever force is neccessary. Though the ceasefire around the town is holding, the situation is 'extremely fragile', a British official said last night. Britain has 'assets' in the area, including carrier- and land-based aircraft as well as ground forces.

The Foreign Secretary told EC foreign ministers of the decision at a meeting in Hindsgavl castle in Denmark where the Twelve underlined that no options - including military measures - had been ruled out. The EC has been deadlocked on the use of force since the war in Bosnia broke out, but yesterday's talks showed they were ready to take the next step.

The move will not require new forces, since there are already aircraft in the region. Though officials were very careful to say that the British initiative was not the same as full-scale intervention to force Serbia to accede to Western demands, they conceded that it was a clear threat, a 'testing of the water' in the words of one official.

The British plan is intended to steer Washington away from the idea of lifting the arms embargo on the Bosnian Muslims. This idea was yesterday rejected by all of the EC apart from Germany. Britain and France in particular believe that it would only create far greater bloodshed. Discussions will now take place between Warren Christopher, the US Secretary of State, and the Europeans, probably in EC capitals this week.

One of the final chances for peace in Bosnia without further Western intervention appears to have ended yesterday with the rejection of the latest Owen plan. 'If we accept this, we are dead - finished,' Mr Karadzic said after meeting Lord Owen, who in turn accused him of leading not only Bosnian Serbs but also the whole Serbian nation 'down a very dangerous and tragic path'. A senior aide to the Bosnian president, Alija Izetbegovic, dismissed Mr Karadzic as 'completely mad' after he turned down a modification of the plan already signed by Mr Izetbegovic and the Bosnian Croats.

The announcement of the US decision on Bosnia has been delayed because Washington fears that measures against Serbia may damage President Yeltsin in the Russian referendum today. But, according to one US source, 'the incremental political costs to Clinton of inaction in Bosnia have risen sharply in the past two weeks'.

The press conference held by Mr Clinton on Friday, the second since he came to office, was dominated by questions about what he intended to do to save the Bosnian Muslims. The change in US policy has come largely because of Serbian rejection of the Vance- Owen plan to divide Bosnia into cantons and the heavily publicised attack on Srebrenica.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before