Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Britain and France Pressure Rival Factions to Sign Bosnia Map

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Britain and France Pressure Rival Factions to Sign Bosnia Map

Article excerpt

BRITAIN and France yesterday mounted a high-profile bid to convince Bosnia's warring factions to accept an international peace plan, billed as the last opportunity to end the 27-month-old conflict.

As British and French foreign ministers, Douglas Hurd and Alain Juppe, traveled to Bosnia-Herzegovina for talks with representatives of the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serbs, they warned that a wider and bloodier war in the Balkans could break out if the "take it or leave it" proposal is rejected.

The five-nation "contact group" - made up of the United States, Russia, France, Germany, and Britain - has given the Bosnian parties until July 19 to accept its peace proposal, which divides the country almost equally between the Muslim-Croat alliance and the Serbs. Neither side seems likely to give it unreserved backing, despite intense international pressure directed mainly at the Bosnian Serbs and their patrons in Belgrade, Serbia.

US envoy Charles Redman said world powers expected "clear-cut" answers by next week's deadline, but diplomatic sources believe the factions will hedge their responses. "Given the diplomatic pressures building, neither side can afford to be seen to say no to the peace plan," says a United Nations's official in Sarajevo. "Each side in its own way will say yes but mean no."

For Muslim-Croat leaders, the partition map giving them 51 percent of territory and the Serbs the rest is an unsatisfactory settlement. They claim to need more land to make their state viable.

Bosnian government troops, emboldened by fresh arms supplies, seem poised to claw back captured ground. At present, a peace treaty is the last thing they want, diplomats say.

But it appears the prospect of losing worldwide sympathy for their cause, and reconstruction aid for their shattered country, is likely to prompt the Sarajevo leadership to grudgingly accept the peace plan, but attach at least some qualifications, Western observers predict.

Bosnian Serb leaders say the present partition map is unacceptable because it requires them to return more than one-third of their conquered territory and whittles away a strategic land corridor in the north to no more than a road. …

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