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Peace Where There Is None

THROUGHOUT the barbaric Yugoslav crisis, the West has declared its commitment to principles of human rights and self-determination but has steadily capitulated to the aggressors. In the Geneva talks on Bosnia this week, under the cover of the American elections, the West may be doing so again.

Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic is facing enormous pressure in Geneva to partition his country along ethnic lines. This would essentially legitimize not only the Serb territorial grab, but their practice of "ethnic cleansing" as well. It would represent, at least temporarily, a surrender. The European Community, the United Nations, and the United States have solemnly proclaimed, in line with the Helsinki agreements, that they would never accept a change of borders for Bosnia. But the deal Lord Owen a nd Cyrus Vance are working in Geneva would de facto open the door for such a change.

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One can only imagine the hardship of Mr. Izetbegovic. Bosnia is demoralized and bitter. It faces a winter when more than 200,000 persons, many of them children, could die of cold and hunger. Two days ago, the last bakery in Sarajevo, a city without oil and water, was blown up by Serbs. Izetbegovic is negotiating with Western leaders who six months before recognized the sovereignty of his country and who are now essentially accepting the position of men like Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who by ri ghts ought to be tried for ethnic cleansing war crimes.

The only glimmer of hope for Izetbegovic, one filled with irony, is that Islamic states in the UN are desperately petitioning the Security Council to lift the arms embargo to Bosnia and enforce the "no fly" zone over Bosnia it declared two weeks ago. The Security Council should do both, immediately.

Messrs. Owen and Vance say the only way to avert more deaths in Bosnia is to agree to a cease-fire based on partitions. The Serbs agree. This is an effort to stop the killing on the killer's terms - peace where there is none. Will sanctions against Serbia then be lifted? That would be a travesty.

The Yugoslav crisis is not just about a few small countries. It is about the future of liberal civilization. Stopping barbarity must be part of that future.

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