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UN Tested by Bosnian Serbs' Intransigence

More sanctions could prompt leaders in Serbia to pressure allies in Bosnia, but control over Serb fighters remains unclear

THE diplomatic community is getting out its crowbars, hoping to find a way to leverage a peace agreement from the Bosnian Serbs.

The pressure is on the Serbs now that Bosnia's Muslim president, Alija Izetbegovic, has agreed to a map dividing Bosnia into separate provinces and an interim plan detailing how the country will be governed on the long road back to normality.

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"It will take the united resolve of the world community," to convince the Serbs to sign the peace agreements and give up their centuries-old dream of a Greater Serbia, predicts Lord David Owen, the European Community's mediator for the former Yugoslavia.

As part of that pressure, the United Nations Security Council plans to meet early this week to hear a report on the peace plan from Lord Owen and UN mediator Cyrus Vance.

"This is a real test of the UN's new role. Can it really deal with someone who is committed to achieving their goal through violence?" asks Greg Weaver, a senior analyst at Science Applications International Corp., a San Diego think tank.

Owen believes there are various ways to place pressure on the Bosnian Serbs. The UN could tighten economic and financial sanctions on Serbia and its allies. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic now is struggling with massive inflation and high unemployment, caused in large part by the economic sanctions imposed by the UN 10 months ago.

"My guess is Milosevic will put pressure on [Bosnian Serb leader Radovan] Karadzic to sign. The embargoes are making the pressures felt," says Valerie Bunce, director of the Slavic and East European program at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

But Owen says the international community also must give the Serbs a "carrot" if they do put pressure on the Bosnian Serbs to sign on to the Vance-Owen plan. "Sanctions could be relaxed," he said in a television interview last week.

In Bosnia, meanwhile, the commander of the UN forces, Lt. Gen. Philippe Morillon said he had negotiated a cease-fire to begin at noon yesterday. But it was unclear if this cease-fire would hold, since others have failed in the past.

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"One of the big unresolved issues is how much the Serbian leaders have command and control on the ground. There could be a lot of militias out there on their own," Mr. Weaver says.

General Morillon said Serbian leaders also had agreed to a humanitarian aid corridor to the besieged town of Srebrenica.

There is some speculation the cease-fire and aid effort may help reduce international pressures on the Serbs to sign the peace agreement. But on March 26, after a meeting with Mr. Izetbegovic, President Clinton told reporters his administration intends to rely on diplomatic pressures and economic sanctions to try to get the Serbs to sign the agreement. Earlier in the week, Mr. Clinton said he might press for a lifting of the arms embargo on Bosnia.

Lifting the arms embargo could backfire, says Kenneth Jensen, director of research and studies at the United States Institute of Peace. "It would suggest to the Serbs in various areas that the activity of extending their control ought to be stepped up."

In addition, "the Russians would violently object," Weaver says. "They would probably view this as worse than the Vance-Owen peace plan."

Clinton indicated on March 26 that he might ask that the arms embargo be lifted on all combatants. He did not indicate how the arms embargo could be lifted while other goods are embargoed from the former Yugoslavia.

Clinton also said he thought the UN would take up a resolution calling for the enforcement of the no-fly zone this week.

On March 25, the UN Security Council postponed any action on the issue at the request of Russia. Russian officials were concerned that the vote might cause more difficulties for President Boris Yeltsin, who is embroiled in a political crisis. The Russians and Serbs have historically had close ties.

"This could be a problem, forcing Yeltsin to back someone against the Serbs," Weaver says. "It's the kind of thing his opponents are always complaining about that he goes along with anything from the West."

Some analysts now think any enforcement action in Bosnia will be postponed until after Mr. Yeltsin's summit meeting with Clinton, planned for April 3-4 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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