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Bosnian Serbs Seen Buying Time for Greater Serbia Aims


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THE Bosnian Serb leadership's decision to accept the principles of a new peace plan is seen by political analysts here as a cynical public relations gambit that belies its intention to continue carving up war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Says Stojan Cerovic, a political columnist for Belgrade-based Vreme magazine: "They are not sincere. It is evident they are not ready to accept the central idea of the Vance-Owen program, which is a single Bosnian state."

"This event does not really move us any closer to peace," observes a Western diplomat here in Belgrade. "The Serbs do not intend to give up territory. They do not intend to demilitarize, and they do not intend to give up sovereignty."

Statements by Radovan Karadzic and other Bosnian Serb leaders immediately after the `parliament' vote on Wednesday seemed to confirm this view.

"The Serbian state exists," Mr. Karadzic told reporters following the vote in his mountain stronghold town of Pale. "It will function as long as the Serbian people want it to function." Karadzic also indicated, the Associated Press said yesterday, that the peace plan would have to be confirmed by Serbs in a referendum.

It remains to be seen how UN Special Envoy Cyrus Vance and European Community mediator Lord David Owen will react when the Geneva peace conference they co-chair resumes on Saturday. The Jan. 20 vote by the self-styled Bosnian Serb parliament endorsed one element of the three-part Vance-Owen peace plan, a set of constitutional principles mandating the preservation of Bosnia-Herzegovina's integrity and independence.

The former Yugoslav republic would be divided into 10 autonomous provinces linked by a weak central government. The 1.9 million Muslim Slavs, 1.4 million Christian Orthodox Serbs, and 750,000 Roman Catholic Croats would each dominate in three provinces, while the 10th, around Sarajevo, would be neutral.

By accepting those principles, the Bosnian Serbs in theory must abandon their goal of tearing a self-declared state out of Bosnia-Herzegovina and merging it with Serb-held areas of Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro in a "Greater Serbia."

Mr. Vance and Lord Owen have repeatedly told Karadzic that there can be no Serbian "state within a state" and that the proposed provinces would be barred from forging any ties with foreign countries.


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