FOR now, all the tough talk about Western military moves to prod Bosnian Serbs to stop fighting and accept an international peace plan has given way to a waiting game.
While Serbs and Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina observed one fragile cease-fire, and Croats and Muslims broke another, the world community watched to see how Bosnian Serbs will respond to increased political and economic pressure from Belgrade and how they will vote in an upcoming peace referendum.
Bosnian Serbs are scheduled to vote on the Vance-Owen peace plan May 15-16. The self-styled Bosnian Serb parliament rejected the plan May 5 despite pleas from Belgrade to support it.
Bosnian Muslim and Serb military leaders were expected to begin negotiating May 12 on terms for the demilitarization of Sarajevo, Tuzla, Gorazde, and Bihac. These are the last of a group of six Muslim enclaves in Bosnia declared "safe areas" by the United Nations Security Council May 6.
Meanwhile, the Council was expected to meet May 12 to consider setting up an international tribunal to prosecute individuals for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. (UN relief efforts stymied by sanctions, Page 6.)
European foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels May 10, formally rejected US proposals for military intervention until after the Bosnian Serb referendum. President Clinton says he will not act unilaterally. But getting UN support will not be easy. Britain, France, and Russia have strong reservations about US proposals such as airstrikes against Serbian targets or lifting the UN arms embargo to assist Bosnian Muslims.
France and Britain, both major contributors to UN peace efforts in Bosnia, are concerned about possible retaliation against their troops and about escalation of the conflict. The Europeans seek deployment of US ground troops in the "safe areas."
The Bosnia debate may spill over to a May 21 Council summit scheduled here for foreign ministers. Russia, acting as president of the Council in May, requested the meeting several weeks ago to talk about UN reform. The military option
US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who returned May 7 from a six-day trip to Europe to confer with leaders on possible military moves, says some military action against Bosnian Serbs may be possible under an August 1992 Council resolution that authorizes members to use "all necessary means" to ensure the flow of humanitarian aid in Bosnia.
"Arguably that [authority] could include bombing positions which prevent relief convoys from getting through," says Frederick Kirgis, a law professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. "But if the intent is to go further than that - and alter the course of the conflict - I think the US legally would be required to go back to the Council and get new authorization."
Council approval of any specific plan would give the action added credibility and political legitimacy, says Hurst Hannum, who teaches international law at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
"I think the fundamental problem facing the US ... is still that no one is quite able to decide why intervention is necessary - whether it is purely humanitarian or more political," Professor Hannum says. "Until someone articulates the difference, widespread support [for intervention] is unlikely."
The Clinton administration has never been a strong supporter of the Vance-Owen map, which would divide Bosnia into 10 largely autonomous, multi-ethnic provinces. After the Bosnian Serb parliament vote May 5, Secretary Christopher said the Vance-Owen option was "closed" and that any further measures against Bosnian Serbs would be strictly "punitive." Yet UN officials and diplomats still view the Vance-Owen plan as viable. On May 7 the Council reaffirmed that the plan remains the basis for Bosnian peace ef forts and that implementation planning should continue.
"I think the plan is still alive and will be imposed," Hannum says. But he voices concern that the plan, implemented perhaps after some military action, will unravel in five or 10 years. Safe havens
Nonaligned members of the Council have been frustrated by the group's failure to take more forceful action in response to "ethnic cleansing" by Bosnian Serbs. Supported by France, these members took the lead in designating six Muslim cities as "safe areas." But the Council authorized only 50 additional observers for the job, even though UN military officials have said 10,000 to 15,000 are needed.
Early press reports indicate that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's recent decision to cut off all supplies but food and medicine to Bosnian Serbs is taking effect. Yet Bosnian Serb stocks of arms and fuel are said to be ample. The Council has no way to verify that supply lines from Belgrade are down. Some diplomats suggest placing UN monitors along the borders; but for several reasons, including cost and danger, the Council has resisted.