Letter: Mired in Bosnia

Sir: Washington's adventure in Bosnia is beginning to resemble Brer Rabbit's entanglement with the Tar Baby. President Clinton has decided to extend, more or less indefinitely, the stay of the US military in Bosnia in order to prevent the resumption of war ("US rules out Bosnia troop withdrawal", 19 December). But this is a problem mainly of his own making.

Washington's train-and-equip programme, which was much opposed by Europe, is tilting the military balance in favour of the Muslims. Whereas the Bosnian Serbs have merely to lift a finger to invite massive Nato airstrikes, the Muslims quite accurately discount the possibility that Nato would turn against them should they go on the warpath.

Rather than being mired indefinitely in Bosnia, Nato troops could still pull out on time next year without leaving a security vacuum. The key would be a solemn declaration by the international community that the demarcation line between Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Bosnian Federation will henceforth be treated as an inviolable international frontier in the case of military transgressions from either side.

With their entity's security thus ensured, Bosnian Serbs would co-operate in facilitating the exchange of those refugees wanting to return. As for the Muslim authorities in Sarajevo, they would have to ditch their campaign to exert control over the whole of Bosnia and, instead, negotiate with Republika Srpska over practical matters.

There would, admittedly, remain the problem of the Muslim-Croat federative entity. Since this unnatural coupling was engineered by Washington for tactical military reasons which are no longer relevant, the State Department should be tasked with speedily resolving its future.

Misha Simic