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Europe Puts Tough Talk on Hold

EC leaders seem eager to break building momentum for international military action in the Balkans. BOSNIA CRISIS

AS the United Nations Security Council begins consultations on the Bosnian peace plan, the European Community is putting its proposals for tougher sanctions against Serbia on hold pending the success or failure of the New York talks.

Gone from Community circles are the criticisms heard earlier that the peace plan negotiated by UN and EC envoys Cyrus Vance and Lord David Owen rewards Serb aggression, shortchanges Bosnia's Muslims, and mocks the international principle against territorial gains made by force.

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Gone, too - at least for now - is the talk of the "total international isolation" of Serbia that EC foreign ministers officially threatened last month, before Bosnian Serbs gave the Vance-Owen plan their conditional approval.

Now EC leaders, generally eager to break what had been growing momentum for international military intervention - and eager as well to dissuade the United States from that course - are endorsing the Vance-Owen plan as a "coherent and comprehensive settlement" that may be realistic enough to succeed.

"Mr. Vance and Lord Owen think, and the 12 [EC member countries] now think, that [the plan] is the best now available," said British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd after EC foreign ministers endorsed the peace plan Feb. 1. "Of course it's a compromise, but at the end ... there would be a sovereign country, Bosnia-Herzegovina."

Bosnia's Muslims and Serbs both reject a key element of the Vance-Owen plan, a proposed map dividing Bosnia into 10 provinces (Peace plan, Page 7).

Sensitive to criticisms that the Community has been ineffectual in its efforts to end war in the former Yugoslavia, EC representatives wanted to give a show of full support for their envoy to the Bosnian antagonists.

"Lord Owen impressed upon me that the present plan is comprehensive and the best solution to be found," says Niels Helveg Peterson, Danish foreign minister and current president of the EC's general affairs council. "Support for it today [among EC foreign ministers] is unequivocal."

EC officials say steps are being taken to ensure that sanctions against Serbia already approved are being enforced. This includes recent efforts, as Mr. Peterson noted, to "fill the hole that is evident on the Danube River," a supply line to Serbia.

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Yet despite continuing pressure from the European press and certain intellectual circles to move beyond diplomacy to military intervention, several EC sources insist that even the faint hope that a negotiated settlement might end hostilities has quieted interventionist rumblings.

The Community also continues to support creation of a war crimes tribunal, with France readying a proposal for such an international court to give soon to the UN.

The findings revealed this week in an EC-sponsored investigation into the abuse and widespread raping of Muslim Bosnian woman are expected to intensify support for such a tribunal.

Mr. Hurd also squashed the idea of a partial lifting of the UN arms embargo to allow a rearming of Bosnia's besieged Muslims. A partial embargo would in fact "destroy the embargo altogether," he said, opening up the country to increased violence.

Any EC discomfort with the Vance-Owen plan may have been most evident when officials led by External Affairs Commissioner Hans Van Den Broek met in Brussels with Bosnian Foreign Minister Haris Silajdzic, on his way to New York. Mr. Van Den Broek acknowledged the plan's "shortcomings," sources said, but told the Bosnian Muslim leader that as of right now the EC saw no alternative.

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