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Belgrade Tightens Noose On Defiant Bosnian Serbs

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THE Zvornik bridge is one of five bridges crossing the Drina River that link Serbia to Bosnia. Until last week, it was the busiest - with a constant stream of trucks and cars. Now, almost nothing moves over it. Hundreds of trucks sit idle on both sides, blocked by Serb police.

The scene is designed to leave little doubt that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is serious about cutting all but humanitarian supplies to the Bosnian Serbs for rejecting the latest Balkan peace plan. It is in stark contrast to a similar blockade Mr. Milosevic announced 14 months ago and quickly lifted.

The state-controlled Serbian news media have also mounted a blanket, communist-style propaganda campaign against the leaders of the Bosnian Serbs. For the first time, the Bosnian Serbs are being denounced for their two-year siege and bombardment of Sarajevo.

Many of them are also accused of large-scale war profiteering. Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, is accused of having $30 million stashed away in a Geneva bank. At the same time, state-run Belgrade television and the state newspaper Politika are touting Milosevic as acting in the best interests of the Bosnian Serb people.

Politika, in a recent editorial, described the Bosnian Serb stand as a reckless gamble. ``Its outcome is clearly fatal for the people - but not for the [Bosnian Serb] leaders. Their positions are secure only and solely by the continued bloodletting, war, isolation, and misfortune.

``What we are particularly concerned about is that we are all as a people identified with a few criminals who use war for acquiring war booty. None of the leaders of the war... [found] it necessary to distance themselves from [acts of] crime against humanity,'' the editorial said.

Milosevic is trying to avoid a tightening of United Nations sanctions, which is being considered by the Security Council.

The new measures include a total land blockade of rump Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), nonrecognition of Yugoslav passports, and seizure of Yugoslav assets overseas. For the first time, the sanctions would hit the Serb elite hard.

Western analysts in Belgrade also speculate that Milosevic feels the time has come to consolidate his ``Greater Serbia'' and say he may be trying to unseat the Bosnian Serb leadership.

Milosevic power grab

A political takeover in Bosnia would be a major political gamble for Milosevic. Up to 1 million Bosnian Serb refugees live in Serbia and Montenegro, and all but one of the Serb opposition parties in Belgrade have sided with the Bosnian Serbs.


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