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Wary of West, Bosnian Serb Signs Plan

BOSNIAN Serb leader Radovan Karadzic's decision yesterday to sign the international peace plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina seems to provide little cause for celebrating an end to the war.

"It will take more than a signature on a peace plan to convince the international community that the Bosnian Serbs are serious and acting in good faith," noted United States Secretary of State Warren Christopher in a statement released in London.

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Such apprehensions appear well-grounded. Members of Mr. Karadzic's leadership openly concede they will not implement the plan and abandon their goal of carving out a self-declared state and anchoring it to the Serb-dominated rump Yugoslav union of Serbia and Montenegro.

The immediate aim of Karadzic and his patron, President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Western diplomats say, is to stave off a growing threat of foreign military intervention by exploiting differences over such action within Western capitals and the United Nations. They are also anxious to end UN sanctions against rump Yugoslavia that were tightened last week, accelerating a galloping economic collapse.

While the sanctions are unlikely to be lifted soon, Serbia's propaganda machinery can at least portray Mr. Milosevic and Karadzic as men of compromise and blame continued economic turmoil on the "anti-Serb" international community.

For those reasons, Karadzic and Milosevic are expected to prevail in winning approval of the plan Wednesday by the self-styled Bosnian Serb parliament, which last week rejected the scheme authored by Cyrus Vance and Lord David Owen to divide Bosnia into 10 largely autonomous, ethnic-based provinces.

But then what? Karadzic himself has expressed concern that he would be lynched by his own people if he implements the plan, which requires the Bosnian Serbs to relinquish 40 percent of the territory they have captured. The immediate aim, therefore, apparently is to preserve the status quo by freezing the situation on the ground, 70 percent of which is held by Bosnian Serbs.

That will mean a carbon-copy of what transpired in Croatia after the Milosevic-backed Serbian rebels agreed to a cease-fire plan with Zagreb that ended seven months of fighting.

The Croatia plan, authored by Mr. Vance, required Croatian Serbs to disarm, to disband their militias, to allow Croat refugees to return to their homes, and to drop the pretense of having an independent state in the 35 percent of Croatia they captured.

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About 15,000 UN peacekeeping troops were deployed to protect Serb-held territories. But Croatian Serb leaders have done virtually nothing to implement the plan, aware that the international community will never agree to a partition of Croatia. Instead, they continue to act as a sovereign government behind the shield of UN forces.

Milosevic and Karadzic appear intent on gaining the same situation in Bosnia. Bosnian Serb leaders will contend that their people are endangered. They have already demanded the deployment of UN forces on the front lines.

"Nor will they go beyond symbolic disarmament," says a Western diplomat. "Like in Croatia, they will paint their tanks blue and call them police vehicles."

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