Letter: Lord Owen's near-impossible task

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Sir: Having spent three years (1943-6) as a soldier and diplomat mainly in Bosnia and Serbia, and kept in touch since, I can claim to be an old hand in the former Yugoslavia. Too old - perhaps, for it was long ago, but the instincts and characters of its peoples hardly seem to have changed.

I want warmly to support the conclusion of your leading article today ('Owen, as he will be judged', 12 August). Lord Owen has shown remarkable fortitude and courage in persevering in a nearly impossible task. He and his UN partners have done everything possible - in the face of evasion, broken promises, and even direct lies - to find a basis for negotiating an end to the fighting - the only possible way to a solution - and have nearly succeeded in getting all parties to the table.

Like many people, I have been ashamed that the West has been unwilling to take or to follow up threats of firm action, and that the Serbs have been able at once to resume their offensive. No negotiation can now yield the result Lord Owen earlier hoped for, but his patience in the face of criticism is not only brave, but keeps open the narrow path to a negotiation that could end the fighting. For this, he deserves thanks and admiration.

Yours faithfully,




12 August