Croatia's Sell-Out

DESPITE airlifts to embattled Sarajevo, the crisis in Bosnia grows uglier by the day. This week in Munich the Group of Seven leaders made it clear they will use force to deliver aid to Sarajevo. But even as they did, the dynamics in Bosnia changed in a dispiriting manner.

This time Serbs aren't to blame - Croats are. With clear support from Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, Bosnian Croat leader Mate Boban, head of a 30,000-man army, is grabbing a third of Bosnia for Croatia. Since Serbs already claim two-thirds of Bosnia, that leaves nothing but Sarajevo for the Muslims, who are half the population of Bosnia.

It is difficult to overstate the betrayal of Muslims this Croat action represents. Croats and Muslims fought the Serbs together. But now Mr. Tudjman, who last year pleaded endlessly with the West to take pity on Croatia and recognize its inviolate borders, is not willing to do the same for his neighbor. Rather he is exploiting Bosnia. Croat action in Bosnia makes a mockery of the West's actions on its behalf last year.

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Mr. Boban halts weapons shipments to the poor band defending Sarajevo. He has unleashed his army in southern Dalmatia, and he captured scenic Mostar, a city with strong Muslim roots.

A Croat claim makes the UN mission more complex and dangerous. Yet the West must persist and restate support of the territorial integrity of Bosnia. There is no more important place to do that than at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe now gathered in Helsinki. It was the CSCE Helsinki Accords, after all, that first demanded West and East respect inviolability of borders and basic human rights.

President Bush meets Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic today. The leader of the free world came to Helsinki on Air Force One; the head of the tiny three-month-old Balkan nation had to be secreted out of Sarajevo on a cargo plane.

Mr. Bush should stand for a genuine new world order with Mr. Izetbegovic. Here is how:

* Strongly condemn Croatia for support of a partitioned Bosnia, hold it as accountable as Serbia, and call for full and immediate sanctions against Croatia if Tudjman does not put a stop to his support of Boban. Develop a long-term plan to isolate and punish Croatia if Tudjman does not.

* Promise Izetbegovic that along with humanitarian aid he will receive significant military aid to defend Sarajevo.

* Continue to work behind the scenes to develop CSCE, NATO, and UN forces - volunteers - that can and will defend Sarajevo.

A year ago the West did not know whom it was dealing with in Yugoslavia. Now it knows. It also knows the conflict, if let be, will spread. Will it let that happen?

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