Balkans' Pact May Divide Bosnia in Thirds U.S. Official Worries That Rival Armies Will Split Nation Further, Making Real Peace Hard to Attain

Article excerpt

THE STATESMEN and diplomats announced the end of the Bosnian war Tuesday, applauding and congratulating one another on the achievement. But a look at the documents they initialed raises hard questions, including whether there will be only a temporary truce, with the final partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina the end result.

In theory, the accords hammered out here during three weeks of intense U.S.-led talks preserve a single, multiethnic state, but they skirt the entire question of military power.

"The principal anomaly of the agreement is that you will have two-plus armies," a White House official told Newsday shortly before the talks came to a close. He referred to the weakly equipped Bosnian army, which the United States plans to train and arm; the Bosnian Serbs, who are well-equipped by Serbia; and the Bosnian Croats, who are well-armed and supported by neighboring Croatia.

His remark suggests Bosnia may ultimately divide not into two, but three, separate entities.

"Having two armies is unlike anything that exists in the world today. It is one of the question marks over the viability of everything," the official added.

This is not only the biggest difficulty in the accord but it also raises questions for the plan by President Bill Clinton's administration plan to deploy 20,000 U.S. troops as part of a NATO force three times that size to implement the accord.

The purpose of the force is described as keeping the sides apart by patrolling a zone of separation. It is to be deployed on Bosnian government territory but is also supposed to circulate freely even in the Serb-held area, an activity that most observers of the region believe will be highly risky. But it is unclear what is to stop the government and Bosnian Serbs from attacking each other if NATO departs Bosnia as scheduled after a year.

To address the problem that local police in the Serb areas supervised the concentration camps and organized the killing and raping, a force of several thousand Western police is to be deployed to select and train new police forces. But at the end of the talks, the United States dropped its insistence that Western police have absolute authority over the selection process.

"Milosevic has promised to help us," the White House official said, referring to Serb President Slobodan Milosevic. "But there is an element of risk. It is possible that some aspects won't play out as we hope."

The map, worked out in five days, appears to include two corridors - one Serb and one Bosnian government - but corridors are militarily vulnerable constructions, which in the case of the Polish Corridor after World War I and the Berlin corridors during the Cold War were constant focuses of tension. …