BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA'S three warring factions are technically no closer to agreement on a peace plan this weekend than they were two weeks ago when negotiations moved here from Geneva.
Yet those in the strongest position to nudge the parties forward - members of the United Nations Security Council - are at last all pulling in the same direction.
The Bosnian peace talks, brokered by Cyrus Vance for the UN and Lord David Owen for the European Community, have been stalled for days while the Clinton administration decided on its new policy. United States officials have argued that the proposed 10-province map for Bosnia was too generous to Serbs.
This week's decision by the US to engage "actively and directly" in the Vance-Owen talks and commit US military power to enforce any agreement reached was warmly welcomed here by the two mediators and most Council members. Diego Arria, Venezuela's ambassador to the UN, for instance, hailed the enforcement guarantee, in particular, and said the US moves "add a new dimension of reality" to the situation (Clinton decision, Page 2).
The US announcement put to rest rumors here that peace talks might have to start again from scratch. The new special US envoy to the talks, ambassador to NATO Reginald Bartholomew, is expected to arrive here Feb. 15 after conferring in Moscow with officials of the Russian Federation. The US intends to work closely with Russia, which favors the Vance-Owen plan but has strong ties with the Serbs, in the peace process.
Neither Bosnia's Serbs nor its Muslim-led government have accepted the Bosnian map put forth by Mr. Vance and Lord Owen. So far only the Croats accept the full three-part plan.
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic says that many predominately Serb areas have been excluded from Serb majority provinces on the map and that the residents of contested areas must be consulted. Vance and Lord Owen told him that ethnic cleansing makes any such move impractical.
Though Dr. Karadzic is unhappy with the current map, he did welcome the latest US move as indicative of "a more balanced approach" that recognizes the talks are three-sided.
Officials of Yugoslavia, the target of stiff UN economic sanctions, do favor the Vance-Owen plan. A visit to New York in the near future by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is a distinct possibility and could add to the pressure on Karadzic.
During the New York round of talks the Bosnian Muslim delegation, led by Foreign Minister Haris Silajdzic, has refused to meet with the other sides in the conflict and to discuss either the map or interim government proposals.
It was widely assumed that the Muslims, who wanted to focus on the new constitution but were told that would take at least three months, were waiting for stronger support from the US. Mr. Silajdzic said this week that the "continuous genocide" in Bosnia makes his government unwilling to negotiate directly with the other factions.
"The purpose of the negotiations is to get the three sides to agree to something," says Fred Eckhard, a spokesman for the UN and EC negotiators. "No one side is going to get all it wants."
In his Feb. 8 report to the Security Council on the progress of the New York phase of the Bosnian peace talks, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali says Vance and Lord Owen are concerned that the conflict could spread but consider the peace package enforceable. They estimate the job would take 15,000 to 25,000 troops.
In addition to closely tracking the peace talks and exerting pressure where it can, the Security Council is expected to lay out the details of implementing and enforcing any agreement. The operation is likely to be controlled and commanded by NATO but will fly the UN flag. Unlike UN peacekeeping troops now in Croatia, the mandate of the expanded force in Bosnia could be established under chapter 7 of the UN charter. Chapter 7 allows the use of force to counter any threat to global peace.
"There is no guarantee that this effort is going to succeed," says Mr. Eckhard, "but with Russia and the Americans pushing toward the same objective, things should move. If it [the job] can be done through diplomatic means, it will be done."