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Europeans: Christopher Is `Consulting' on Bosnia

US presenting evolving Bosnia policy, analysts say, not setting terms

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AT the end of five hours of talks on the Bosnian crisis May 4 with French leaders, United States Secretary of State Warren Christopher at one point described the discussions as "genuine consultations."

That statement might seem hardly worth repeating if not for a growing characterization, especially among the US press travelling with the secretary, of Mr. Christopher's tour as failing in its mission to line up European allies behind United States plans for military intervention.

But from a European point of view, the secretary of state is in Europe to present a new - and still evolving - US policy on Bosnia, not to dictate the measures of an eventual military intervention.

Most analysts here say the two Western European powers "that count" in this discussion, Britain and France, will still fall in line behind the US if and when a clear decision for an international military role is actually made. The British would seek to preserve the "special" Anglo-American relationship, and the French would seek to prove, as they did during the Gulf war, that when push comes to shove they will not be isolated from their allies.

But European doubts about the utility and consequences of military intervention, especially in a zone where European soldiers are already serving under the UN, were not about to be overcome by one visit, these analysts add. Just as in the period before the Gulf war, they say, the US lead on consultations and decisionmaking will need to be determined and intense.

"This is going to take a forceful, reliable American engagement, and a clear position from the Clinton administration of an unquestionable refusal of a greater Serbia in the former Yugoslavia," says Hans Stark, a Bosnian specialist at the French Institute for International Relations. "Only [then] will you overcome the continuing French and British reticence."

What Christopher's visits to London and Paris did reveal - ahead of stops in Moscow yesterday and Bonn today - is a convergence of views on steps to be taken in the event the Vance-Owen peace plan is accepted by the Bosnian Serbs and its implementation becomes imminent. (Russian position, Page 6.)

Views on a rapid recourse to military action, in the event the plan is not accepted, remain further apart.

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