Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Losing Side of Carter's Charm Bosnian Muslims Slip in Public Relations Battle as the West Appears to Favor Serb Interests

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Losing Side of Carter's Charm Bosnian Muslims Slip in Public Relations Battle as the West Appears to Favor Serb Interests

Article excerpt

FOR the past 2-1/2 years, Bosnian Serb soldiers have been allowed to steal Muslims' land, kill their sons, systematically rape their mothers and daughters, and force them to move out of most of their own country.

Now, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic - eager to reinvent the Bosnian Serb image in the Western media - is talking peace. But for the Muslim-led Bosnian government, peace could mean being backed into a corner. A dangerous transition is occurring.

An international community weary of war could shift its image of the Muslims from the war's victims to obstructionists of peace, while the Bosnian Serbs and their allies use a loophole in a one-week cease-fire brokered by former President Jimmy Carter to increase their attack on Muslim forces in the surrounded Bihac pocket in northwest Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Under intense pressure from Western nations eager to get out of the quagmire in Bosnia, the Muslim-led government accepted the talks last week.

"I think President Carter started with a lot of momentum," Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic sheepishly told reporters. "We don't want to discourage what he is doing here."

With Carter's visit, the West gave up its "take it or leave it" condition that Bosnian Serbs accept the "contact group" peace plan before negotiations begin on a long-term war settlement. The Serbs have not accepted the plan, which would force them to give up about one-third of the land they have conquered. But they did agree to a week of talks on a four-month cessation of hostilities.

Already the Muslims are looking like the ones not interested in peace. Protesting continued attacks on Bihac by Croatian Serb and rebel Muslim forces that are not technically part of the cease-fire agreement, the Bosnian government has threatened to end the talks.

"If these attacks continue, I state that the cease-fire doesn't exist," Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic said in broadcast Dec. …

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