BELGRADE — UNITED Nations Special Envoy Thorvald Stoltenberg tried yesterday to sound upbeat about the search for peace in former Yugoslavia despite Serbia's rejection of the latest idea for resolving the Balkan morass.
``I don't take it as a final answer,'' Mr. Stoltenberg said of a statement in which hard-line President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia ruled out negotiations on a so-called global solution.
That approach seeks to frame in a single accord, settlements to the major disputes that contributed to the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The UN envoy and his co-mediator, Lord David Owen of the European Community, undertook a ``global solution'' because of the collapse last month of their plan for a three-way partition of Bosnia. The collapse of that plan, after the refusal of Bosnian Muslims to agree to partition without changes, left the peace process bankrupt.
In his statement on Sunday after a meeting with Stoltenberg, Mr. Milosevic insisted on implementation of the Bosnian plan.
``The international community should not avoid its obligation to use the necessary political influence so that use is made of the opportunity for peace offered by the peace plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina,'' the statement said, referring to the plan to divide Bosnia into Muslim, Serb, and Croat ``ministates,'' all linked in a loose confederation. That plan was rejected by the Muslim-dominated Bosnian Parliament, which said it awarded too much territory to the Milosevic-backed Bosnian Serbs, who have conquered roughly 70 percent of Bosnia since March 1992.
Stoltenberg and Owen have refused to disclose any details of their deliberations.
But political analysts suggest a global solution might entail a partition of Bosnia between Serbia and Croatia to satisfy their territorial aspirations, but with sufficient territory left over for a viable Muslim-dominated state.
Croatia would also grant autonomy to the parts of its territory conquered in 1991 by Yugoslav Army-backed Serbian rebels. Serbia would have to give self-rule to its southern province of Kosovo, where it has employed police repression to crush demands for independence by the ethnic-Albanian majority.
Many analysts harbor serious doubts about the global concept, saying that neither Milosevic nor Croatian President Franjo Tudjman are prepared, at least for now, to make the politically explosive concessions necessary for it to succeed.
Speaking at a news conference, Stoltenberg asserted that despite their setbacks, ``Lord Owen and myself are not giving up.'' But he admitted that their exploration of the global solution had produced no concrete progress to date. ``I would say we are met with constructive curiosity.'' Stoltenberg ruled out an early resumption of the Geneva-based peace talks. ``We will not invite [the parties] for talks until we feel there are realistic opportunities that this invitation could be followed up.''
Stoltenberg said that the Yugoslav peace process was hampered by the diversion of international attention to other trouble spots, such as Haiti, Somalia, and the former Soviet Union.
On other matters, Stoltenberg said he and Owen were trying to enlist the cooperation of the Bosnian factions in curbing local warlords and securing safe corridors by which humanitarian aid can reach hundreds of thousands of people threatened by winter.
UN relief convoys were suspended in central Bosnia last week, after a Danish truck driver was killed and six other drivers injured when caught in crossfire between Bosnian Army and Bosnian Croat forces. ``There is not one day when UN vehicles are not fired on in central Bosnia,'' Stoltenberg said.