THE world's major nuclear powers are ready to press a peace offensive in Bosnia-Herzegovina, saying current conditions offer perhaps the best prospects for a settlement since the fighting began almost two years ago.
At a Tuesday meeting in Bonn, diplomats from the United States, Russia, and the European Union synthesized a peace strategy to bring an end to the three-way war between Muslim, Croat, and Serbian forces in Bosnia.
``The main outcome is that we have a lot of coherence,'' Jurgen Chrobog, the German Foreign Ministry official who hosted the meeting, said of the US, Russian, and EU positions on Bosnia.
The diplomats say their top priority now is to extend the cease-fire now in effect in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo to other battle zones across the nation. They also want to expand United Nations humanitarian aid efforts in devastated Bosnian cities.
The key to the Sarajevo cease-fire was a NATO ultimatum to Bosnian Serb forces besieging the city to stop shelling the capital or face punitive airstrikes. Russian diplomatic pressure was instrumental in getting Bosnian Serb forces to comply with the ultimatum.
But in trying ``to build on the outcome of the NATO ultimatum,'' as Mr. Chrobog put it, the Bonn conference participants agreed that there was no immediate need for NATO to make new threats to bomb the belligerents into complying with future peace initiatives. That position has some German political analysts wondering about peace prospects for Bosnia.
``A war will be prevented by showing determination and deterrence. Diplomacy will turn to appeasement if there is no backbone of a credible military threat,'' political commentator Gunter Nonnemacher wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily.
Other Western experts say the current window of opportunity for a Bosnian settlement could close without resolution, citing lingering differences between the United States and Russia over the possible use of NATO force in the name of peace. The longer and more involved the Bosnian peace maneuverings, the greater the possibility for the US-Russian spirit of cooperation over Bosnia to weaken, the experts say.
In Moscow yesterday, President Boris Yeltsin proposed a one-day summit with the US, France, Britain, and German to ``put a final end to the bloodshed in Yugoslavia.''
Stephen Oxman, an assistant US Secretary of State, said in Bonn that the US did not exclude the use of force in the future. But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vitaly Churkin maintained Moscow's strong opposition to military threats against the Serbs, who share strong cultural and religious traditions with Russians.
Mr. Churkin told his US and EU counterparts in Bonn: ``When you get in trouble with the Serbs, before raising hell, please turn to us [Russia]. Maybe we can resolve it without any difficulties.''