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Peace - or Truth?

TO a world uncertain and worried about the kind of brutality taking place in Bosnia, the peace plan discussed in Geneva this week looks very tempting. Undaunted by, and perhaps a bit forgetful of, previous failures, world attention is again focused on a diplomatic end to the furious strife in the Balkans.

At first glance the plan, presented by negotiators Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance, appears to have all the elements needed for a well-managed negotiation leading to peace: Bosnia remains a single state carved into 10 cantons. Serbs, Croats, and Muslims have autonomy in their cantons. Serbs give back some of what they have taken. UN troops ease the transition. All that is left is signing on the dotted line - which Croat leader Mate Boban has done, and which embattled Bosnian leader Alija Izetbegovic indicated,

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for the first time, he might do.

The problem is that the plan is unrealistic and wishful. It is a diplomatic "solution" that not only leaves aggression unchecked, but allows the aggressors their spoils. In this, it seems immoral.

In the Geneva plan, Bosnia remains a single state. But it is telling that Messrs. Vance and Owen had to go to Belgrade Wednesday to plead with Serb President Slobodan Milosevic to accept it. Given Mr. Milosevic's past behavior, how long would Bosnia remain intact?

Mr. Izetbegovic is in Geneva because his people, given no help, not even arms to defend themselves, are so beaten and bloodied he has no choice but to be. Izetbegovic needs help. So far, the West has given him only a terrible choice: Stand for sovereignty and rights and forfeit help, or compromise, accept defeat and "peace," and keep your people alive another day or month.

This week Izetbegovic had to sit in the same room and negotiate with Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, recently named a war criminal by the US State Department. Lord Owen called it a "breakthrough." Vance later praised Mr. Karadzic for releasing Bosnian prisoners and cast doubt on Izetbegovic's claim that Serbs in Sarajevo jails were war criminals. Such "evenhanded" approaches merely excuse evil.

What about Serb concentration camps? What about the systematic killing of all educated Muslims? What about the brutal rape camps where Muslim women are kept for Serb soldiers? What about the looting and burning?

Is any responsibility to be taken for these heinous acts?

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Sadly, Geneva continues a pattern of Western accommodation dating back to the earliest days of the Balkan conflict. It says that a hasty peace is more important than facing the truth about the situation in the Balkans and working toward a just solution.

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