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Serbs call for a united state: Morillon backs aid deal

BOSNIAN Serb leaders, backed by nationalist politicians in Belgrade, are pushing for the creation of a united Serbian state linking all Serbs who live outside Serbian-dominated rump Yugoslavia. The plan, which is certain to draw international condemnation, would merge Serbian-controlled areas of Bosnia with parts of Croatia that were conquered by the Serbs in 1991. Serbia's critics will see the plan as a prelude to the unification of all Serbian lands, including Serbia and Montenegro, an objective which Serbian nationalists have had in mind since the Yugoslav wars erupted in 1991.

To counter Croatian objections, the plan envisages that Croatia will be allowed to regain control of much of the Krajina enclave, which borders Croatia's Adriatic coast and is a UN-protected area under the authority of local Serbs. The Serbs will also allow the Croats a free hand in Western Herzegovina, an area next to Krajina where Bosnian Croats have already set up their own state and use the Croatian currency. In this way, the Serbs and Croats would implement their agreement, first reached at a meeting last May between the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, and the Bosnian Croat leader, Mate Boban, to divide the republic at the expense of the Muslims.

Political sources in Belgrade said that the new Serbian state could be proclaimed before the start of May. They said that the plan had the support of Dobrica Cosic, the President of the rump Yugoslav state.

A strong hint that the plan is under active consideration was given on Saturday by Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, which is the second largest political party in the parliaments of Serbia and rump Yugoslavia. In a speech in Banja Luka, a Serbian stronghold in northern Bosnia, Mr Seselj said that his party's long-term goal was the creation of a single, enlarged Serbian state. But he said that a first stage in this process should be the formation of a state from Serbian-held lands in Bosnia and Croatia.

In eastern Bosnia the commander of UN forces, General Philippe Morillon, negotiated with Bosnian Serb leaders to try to ensure that 18 trucks of humanitarian aid could reach the besieged town of Srebrenica. The Danish trucks have been stranded on the Serbian side of the Drina river border for two days. General Morillon became a hero for many Muslims when he led an aid convoy into Srebrenica on Friday and evacuated about 700 people from the town, including 110 wounded.

General Morillon said yesterday that a UN convoy would begin evacuating Serbian families from Tuzla today, meeting the Serbian pre-condition for allowing further evacuations from Srebrenica. The general, who travelled to Tuzla earlier in the day, called for a company of UN Protection Force troops to be sent to Srebrenica to ensure that the town did not fall into the Serbian hands. He said he hoped to conclude a ceasefire today with the Bosnian Serb General, Ratko Mladic, at Bratunac, a Serb-controlled town close to the border with Serbia.

In Paris, the French Defence Ministry announced yesterday that it is sending two cargo planes to join US aircraft in airdropping relief aid into Bosnia. The planes will operate from the US base in Frankfurt.