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Balkan Barbarisms

`THE Murder of Sarajevo' is what Borba, the only Serbian independent newspaper, calls events in Bosnia-Herzegovina's capital where Serb locals, backed by the "Yugoslav Army," are systematically destroying the old city and indiscriminately killing civilians.

Sarajevo, host of the 1984 winter Olympics, today resembles 100 South-Central L.A.s. "It is hard to conceive of anything so evil in the civilized world," Borba bravely reflects.

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Serbia has spearheaded a bloody land grab of 70 percent of Bosnia. Adding to this horror, Bosnian Serb and Croat leaders secretly agreed in Austria last week to split up Bosnia, leaving the poorly armed Muslims, 44 percent of Bosnians, to twist in the wind. Many Muslims may be literally forced into the hills.

The international community cannot simply sit back and watch Bosnia, a country that democratically voted for independence and whose sovereignty was recognized in April, be carved up into cantons patrolled by lawless armed bands. The European Community and the United States this week removed their ambassadors from Belgrade; that is only a start. The regime of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia ought to be isolated in every world forum, and plans for selective sanctions resumed. Propaganda from Belgrade about "M uslim aggression" as a rationale for war in Bosnia tests the capacity of the Serbian population to believe lies.

All-out sanctions against Serbia may be counterproductive. They could feed a historic Serb tendency to feel persecuted and mask for average Serbs that it is the policies of their own government that are ruining their country. For now, this means grim patience for those who care about Muslim men, women, and children in Bosnia.

Nor is the Tudjman regime in Croatia absolved from responsibility. When Croatia was under seige by the Serb-led Yugoslav Army, President Franjo Tudjman argued gloriously for pity and international recognition. He got it. Yet Mr. Tudjman has not renounced last week's deal by Bosnian Croats and Serbs to annex part of independent Bosnia to Croatia - implying he would sell his neighbor down the river. Croatia played a constructive role on behalf of an ad hoc "Friends of Bosnia" group in the CSCE meeting last

week. But Tudjman needs to simply and plainly affirm Bosnia's sovereign borders. That would put the responsibility for the Balkan barbarisms back where it belongs - in the axis between Belgrade and the Serb leaders shelling Sarajevo.

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