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Lord Owen's Diplomatic Arm-Twist

IF the Bosnian crisis were not already so tragic and explosive, the imperious arm-twisting tactics being used by Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance to pressure a new White House into accepting a flawed and unjust "peace plan" might be excusable.

But it almost seems Lord Owen and Mr. Vance are more patient with Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic, who engineered ethnic cleansing, than with Bill Clinton, the president of the United States.

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Having dithered for 10 months while Serbs killed and "cleansed" Bosnia of its Muslims by the thousands and millions, the EC-UN negotiators now come to town to say that unless President Clinton signs their plan - right away, now, without thinking - the US will be "responsible" for ending "any chance" for peace. As Lord Owen put it: "This is the only act in town.... There is no other choice."

If such guilt and pressure tactics seem familiar, it may be because they are the same ones Vance and Owen used on the wretched Muslims in Geneva - telling them that unless they give up their rights and accept defeat, the world will hold them responsible.

But the tactics are actually worse. The Geneva team seized the recent, weak European acceptance of their plan and are using it against the Americans. Now the White House must worry not just about Serb tactics in the Balkans, but also the tactics of Vance and Owen that would go so far as to divide the allies at a time when Clinton has not yet established himself. Mr. Milosevic must love this.

It is time for a different approach.

Any new world order must stand for minority rights. Any resolution of post-cold-war turmoil must ensure that minorities can live safely and in peace. In this case, Muslims are the persecuted minority in the former Yugoslavia. They have few weapons and have been sold down the river; who will lift a voice on their behalf?

America should. America should stand for all who believe that right must outweigh might - and that an easy and convenient peace that allows violence and hate to fester is no peace at all.

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