Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

2 Factions Join Hands in Bosnia Muslims, Bosnian Croats to Rule under One Flag

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

2 Factions Join Hands in Bosnia Muslims, Bosnian Croats to Rule under One Flag

Article excerpt

Bosnian Muslim and Croat negotiators agreed Tuesday to link their war-torn territories under a single flag. The step is aimed at isolating the Bosnian Serb faction at peace talks and bringing the war in the former Yugoslavia to an end.

Muslim and Bosnian Croat representatives signed a detailed political and military document that would set up a two-house legislature, merge the warring armies of both Bosnian groups and provide for the presidency to rotate annually from one group to the other.

The accord was reached in four days of talks at the State Department and wound up with frenetic phone calls from Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic to President Franco Tudjman in Zagreb, Croatia.

The agreement creates a federation of cantons made up of areas where the majority of the population is either Muslim or Bosnian Croat. They would have equal rights, with a central government responsible for foreign affairs, national defense and commerce.

"This is a major step in the search for peace in Bosnia," said President Bill Clinton.

At a briefing after the signing ceremony, a senior administration official conceded that the agreement covered only 32 to 33 percent of the territory of Bosnia. The rest is controlled by the Bosnian Serbs.

The document was signed by Granic, Kresimir Zubak, representative of the Bosnian Croats, and Haris Silajdzic, Bosnia's foreign minister. No further signatures or ratifications are required to put it into effect, a U.S. official said.

As an incentive to join forces, representatives on both sides were told that a new Croatia-Bosnia federation might eventually obtain limited membership in the European Union and would be invited to take part in NATO's new Partnership for Peace program, which offers military cooperation.

U.S. special envoy Charles Redman oversaw the talks, which culminated two weeks of diplomacy that broke an apparently intractable stalemate. Secretary of State Warren Christopher presided over a celebratory signing.

"The agreement shows how much can be accomplished even after bitter years of violence, when two sides sit down to reach an understanding," Christopher said. …

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