UN Security Council May Vote on Issue of Lifting Bosnia Arms Ban
But talks on partition of state continue, despite Muslim resistance
UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. — THE pressure is growing on Bosnia-Herzegovina's Muslim-led government to consider a three-way ethnic split of Bosnia.
Those leading the push for acceptance of the Serb-Croat proposal say the proposed confederation is the only practical alternative to continued war. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, Muslim leader of the nation's 10-member governing council, says the plan rewards Serb aggression.
The issue has sparked a rift within Bosnia's collective presidency. Mr. Izetbegovic, Vice President Ejup Ganic (also a Muslim), and Rasim Delic, Bosnia's Army chief, boycotted last week's talks in Geneva sponsored by the European Community (EC) and United Nations mediators Lord David Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg. The three Bosnian leaders are also not expected to show up today in Geneva for the next round of talks.
The other seven members of Bosnia's collective presidency conferred in Brussels over the weekend with EC leaders and are expected to take part in this week's Geneva talks. No nation appears ready to carry through on past threats of military intervention to force a rollback of Bosnian Serb land gains. Last attempt for defense
Yet one last attempt is expected to be made here at the UN headquarters this week to allow Bosnian Muslims to defend themselves more effectively. Pakistan and the four other nonaligned members of the Security Council (Morocco, Djibouti, Venezeula, and Cape Verde) want a Council vote tomorrow to approve their resolution to exempt the Bosnian government from the 1991 UN arms embargo imposed on the former Yugoslavia and to authorize air strikes in support of the Bosnian government.
Though the United States is long on record in favor of lifting the arms embargo, Russia, France, and Britain remain strongly opposed. Any of the three could veto the move; all may abstain if they are sure the measure will not pass. Pakistan's UN Ambassador Jamsheed Marker, current head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, says he is hopeful but not positive that the proposal has the needed nine votes.
He says the Council has a moral, political, and legal obligation to allow Bosnia to exercise the right of self defense guaranteed by the UN Charter. "The moment of truth has arrived," says Ambassador Marker. For too long Bosnia's Muslims have had "their hands tied behind their backs," he says, while being "hit over the head by somebody bigger and stronger."
The rhetoric in the Council debate is sure to be strong. The list of speakers is long. If the resolution is vetoed, the General Assembly may hold a debate of its own.
Yet many diplomats and analysts say they do not think more arms in the Bosnian mix is a viable answer at this point.
"I'm skeptical that increasing the number of weapons available would have any real positive impact," says Mark Nelson, a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "If there were going to be a big Western military effort and you wanted to join forces with the Muslims, that would be a different story." In Mr. Nelson's view, putting more UN troops on the ground to protect Council-declared Muslim "safe areas," trying to get a lasting cease-fire, and continuing negotiations provide t he best hope.
"We don't believe that bringing more arms into the region would bring more peace," says Mario Noblio, Croatia's Ambassador to the UN, who stresses that his country did support a lift of the arms embargo when Serb forces first intervened in Bosnia. "We need a pragmatic political solution which will stop the fighting. We need a Switzerland of the Balkans, not a new Lebanon in the area." Fighting continues
Despite a nationwide cease-fire in effect for more than a week, fighting between Croats and Muslims in central Bosnia and the shelling of Sarajevo continues. Aid convoys are still stopped and harassed by all three factions. Funds to support such relief are said to be almost gone.
Franjo Boras, a Croat who heads the Bosnian government's delegation at the Geneva talks, said in Brussels he and colleagues now see negotiations as "the best possibility." However, he said all factions in the Bosnian government would be consulted before any accord is reached.
Geneva-based talks between the Croatian government and Serb leaders in the Krajina region of Croatia are due to resume July 6. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has recommended that the mandate of UN peacekeeping troops there, which expires Wednesday, be extended for three months. Zagreb authorities say they will agree only to a one-month extension. Anything more, says Ambassador Noblio, might strengthen Serb reluctance to negotiate. Though he says Croatia would be reluctant to "liberate" Serb-h eld areas by force, the option is open "if everything else fails."