COMMUNIST-RULED Serbia has shown little apparent willingness to restrain its Yugoslav Army-backed proxies from dismembering the neighboring republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina despite the latest European Community-brokered truce accord and increased US pressure.
Muslims, Croats, loyalist Serbs, and Bosnia-Herzegovina's out-gunned government are hoping United Nations Special Envoy Cyrus Vance will bring the necessary diplomatic muscle to bear on Serbia and the Serb-dominated Yugoslav Army when he arrives April 15.
"If international pressure does not have an effect, then we are helpless," said Ejub Ganic, a member of the republic's collective presidency.
But, like other local officials and Western diplomats, Mr. Ganic says he believes that, just as in neighboring Croatia, Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic will not relent until Serbian forces have secured the borders of a self-declared Serbian state that he wants included in a future Serb-dominated rump Yugoslavia.
"Mr. Milosevic always calculates that the West will intervene only if it has an economic interest," Ganic said in an interview.
"Our hope is that America and the West want stability and want all governments to observe human rights," Ganic continued.
Many people here also worry that even if he yields to international pressure, Milosevic will find it difficult to rein in Serbian extremists, whose artillery and sniper attacks have shattered forever the delicate comity that allowed Bosnia-Herzegovina's 1.4 million Eastern Orthodox Serbs to live in peace for almost half a century with its 1.9 million Muslims and 750,000 Roman Catholic Croats. Ethnic strife
"I had a friend who is now on the other side," says Nedim Mandzukic, a member of the pro-government "Patriotic League" militia. "We can never be friends again. He has destroyed everything we ever had together."
"We can only live with the Serbs who are loyal to our state," Mr. Mandzukic says.
Western diplomats say that Muslim and Croat political leaders could face similar problems in restraining their forces.
"We're really not sure how representative the leaders are at the moment and how much authority they have," says one Western diplomat.
Mr. Vance's mission follows that of EC special mediator Jose Cutileiro, who brokered a new cease-fire April 11 in the conflict pitting the Army-backed Serbian Democratic Party and Serbia-based guerrillas against predominantly Muslim and Croatian security forces and pro-government militias.
President Milosevic's regime supports the accord, the third arranged between the Serbian Democratic Party, the Muslim Party of Democratic Action, and Croatian Democratic Union since Serbian territorial seizures began in earnest following US and EC recognition of the republic's independence and integrity early last week.
Washington quietly stepped up its diplomatic action even before Mr. Cutileiro arranged the truce. US Ambassador to Belgrade, Warren Zimmerman, personally delivered a stringent protest to Milosevic April 10, that held Milosevic and the Yugoslav Army "accountable" for the crisis.
But within hours of the cease-fire's midnight start April 12, Serbian forces attacked police in Sarajevo, renewed shelling on the eastern towns of Visegrad and Foca, and proclaimed two "Serbian autonomous regions" in northeastern Bosnia.
Yugoslav Army artillery, meanwhile, renewed barrages against Croatian towns in western Herzegovina as tanks and troops maintained a two-day occupation of Stolac in eastern Herzegovina.
Stolac was the fourth mostly Muslim town seized by Serbian forces in two weeks. Serbian tactics
Most were occupied in what Ganic called a "carbon-copy" of Serbian tactics used in Croatia, with Serbian irregulars initiating the attacks and then Yugoslav Army troops moving in under the pretext of "protecting" local residents.
More than 50,000 mostly Muslim and Croatian refugees have been uprooted, most of them in what Western officials and relief workers regard as a deliberate plan to create "pure" Serbian areas along the eastern border with Serbia.
The violence has been accompanied by acts of desperation and ruthlessness that have fueled chaos in the republic.
Nationalist Croatian militiamen who are not controlled by Bosnia-Herzegovina's government are struggling to blunt a Yugoslav Army offensive in western Herzegovina. Army offensive
After threatening to blow up a Drina River hydroelectric dam, the Muslim head of Visegrad's civil-defense headquarters, Murat Sabanovic, on opened the floodgates April 12, unleashing torrents of water toward low-lying lands along the border with Serbia.
Meanwhile, masked Serbs seized a hydroelectric dam on the Neretva River near Mostar.
A Muslim threatened to blow up a chemical plant if Serbs continued shelling the town of Gorazde; in Bosanski Brod, Serbian artillery blew holes in a $500 million oil refinery.
With police engaged against Serbian forces, free-lance gunmen and Army reservists have been stealing cars and looting stores, homes, and enterprises.
The fighting and lawlessness have rendered Sarajevo's government almost powerless, complicating any attempts to restore stability so that a political solution could be implemented.
"There is an impression that the government is dissolving slowly at this stage," said one Western diplomat.
That, Ganic says, is a major aim of the Serbian offensive.