Bosnian Chief May Take Islamic Aid
With expectations low for Geneva talks, Izetbegovic says West's failure to help leaves his nation few alternatives
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Yet the trip became controversial when the New York Times reported that Cyrus Vance, who with Britain's Lord Owen is attempting to mediate a solution to the Bosnian war on behalf of the United Nations, had called both Mr. Eagleburger and Secretary of State-designate Warren Christopher, asking them not to meet with Izetbegovic. Mr. Vance publicly expressed displeasure with the Bosnian leader's trip, saying it could harm the peace process.Skip to next paragraph
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Vance's comments were disparaged by some US officials, though others point out that Vance has much influence in the State Department. He is considered Mr. Christopher's mentor. One official said privately that Vance is "attempting to tell the world that `I alone will run this show.' "
George Kenney, Yugoslav desk officer for the State Department until he resigned in August over policy differences, says, "Vance is not dealing with Izetbegovic as though he is a head of government. He believes the Bosnians have lost the war and that he can prevent Izetbegovic from meeting with other heads of state, as though he doesn't have the right to talk with anyone he wants."
Izetbegovic described to reporters the pressure he has been put under by Owen and Vance to negotiate directly with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, recently named a war criminal by the State Department - against popular sentiment in Sarajevo. Warning from Vance
"If I didn't, I was told I would bear the responsibility for the loss of peace and the failure of negotiations," he added. When asked by the Monitor, Izetbegovic said the warning was communicated to him "directly by Mr. Owen and Mr. Vance."
The peace plan put forward by Vance and Owen, which divides Bosnia into 10 cantons along ethnic lines, is a substantial backtrack from positions taken for ten months by the international community, including the UN Security Council, the European Community, and the US State Department. Under these previous standards, settlements would have required the Bosnian Serb military to be "subordinated" to the Bosnian government, and to withdraw, or disarm; ethnic criteria could not determine canton borders.
Yet the Bosnian government is willing to accept the Vance-Owen plan provided lines dividing the 10 cantons do not reward "ethnic cleansing," Izetbegovic said. The other compromise required of Serbs "is to remove heavy weapons from Sarajevo and put them under UN control," he added.
So far, the Serbs have been unwilling to take this step, though one US official says they may agree to this request on paper and not actually follow through. Message hits home
One of Izetbegovic's messages that hit home hardest, according to diplomat Landrum Bolling, who has worked as a private US envoy to the Palestinians, was his reminder that the West promised twice to send humanitarian aid "by all necessary means," according to the Security Council resolution. Yet so far only one in 10 UN convoys have gotten through Serb lines. "We have not even followed through on that basic promise," Mr. Bolling said. "Let's get honest about this part of our responsibility."
Senior Carnegie Endowment fellow Alriza Bulent says the West has no shown sign so far of recognizing how seriously the Islamic world has taken the Bosnian crisis for the past several months. "It is the number one issue in any newspaper or radio news program."
As an example he cites a Jan. 5 TV broadcast in Turkey when Deniz Baykal, a very moderate leader of the center-left Social Democrats broke down and cried on camera following a trip to Sarajevo, and said, "We must intervene."
Izetbegovic, for his part, when interviewed here by the Muslim Broadcast Network, the CNN of the Arab world, broke out of the polite tone he had used with Western reporters and bluntly stated: "I am not optimistic that the next US administration will help us. I ask for continued political support and for military and financial support from the Muslim countries if peace negotiations fail."