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    SUN, 10 JUL 1994 23:01:47 GMT

    AIM, Belgrade, July 9, 1994

    BELGRADE REACTIONS TO GENEVA PROPOSAL

    Summary:

    After Milosevic has declared that "peace is most important", pro-regime press in Serbia is strongly supporting signing of the latest peace plan for Bosnia&Herzegovina, made by the Contact Group. The commentator of state television assesses that "the opportunity for peace has been created". The daily "Politika" reminds that the Vance-Owen plan had offered less territory to the Serbs - just 45 per cent, and concludes that the Serbs will maintain control over their territories, and that it is doubtful what would happen should the war continue.

    Contrary to the administration, a part of the opposition, Kostunica's Democratic Party of Srebia and Seselj's Radicals, propagate refusal of the plan, but the most belligerent statement was issued by the Serbian Orthodox Church which said that it would rather not live than to betray the Serbian people.

    The key lies on the relation between Belgrade and Pale. It is interesting that Milosevic has not spoken with the President of Bosnian Serbs, but with his Vice-President, Nikola Koljevic. In Belgrade, there are no prognosis on what might happen. Will Milosevic's pressures on Bosnian Serbs be repeated, will there be any attempt to neutralize the belligerent Karadzic. Milosevic badly needs peace and lifting of the sanctions, official Belgrade is in favour of interruption of the war. At the same time, independent media doubt the possibility of establishing peace based on an agreement which was not reached by the warring parties. The forecasts are that the "lukewarm war" will continue.

    From Belgrade, the current act of the Bosnian war drama is perceived as the beginning of an uncertain finish. Judging by the available official reactions and according to those who propagate the official stance in various ways, the Serbs should accept the latest peace plan created by the Contact Group, because, as Stefan Grubac, the exclusive commentator of the state Radio-Television Serbia put it, "the opportunity for peace has really been created". They are expected to show a maximum of constructiveness and wisdom - which they have already shown when they accepted Mr. Akashi's proposal for continuation of the ceasefire. The Muslims are the party which, it is stressed, has not accepted the proposal.

    In his first public appearance after the peace plan was made known and after his talks with the Russian diplomat, Mr. Kozyrev, who had flown directly to Belgrade from Geneva, President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic - although he refused to comment on the offered solution leaving it to the "warring parties" - indicated clearly that, for him, "peace was most important", that killing should stop, and that everything could be resolved by political means. He also expressed his attitude towards the peace plan when he "clarified" that it was no ultimatum of any kind, but an offer with a time-limit for declaring an attitude towards it. The Russian diplomat was more specific and said, in the presence of Milosevic, that they have both agreed that the offered agreement had no alternative.

    The unwelcome guest

    To Belgrade's regret, though, signing of the peace plan is not within its competence. In this sense, the most exclusive piece of news coming from Belgrade reads that Kradazic and Milosevic have not met after the Geneva meeting: on July 7, "because it was a holiday", as the President of Bosnian Serbs explained, and a day later, probably because it was not a holiday. But, the last work day of last week was extremely busy in the seat of the President of Serbia. All Serbian leaders - with the exception of Karadzic who was represented by Nikola Koljevic - were received in audience: Milan Martic and Borislav Mikelic of the Republic of Serbian Krajina, general Ratko Mladic, and the already mentioned Karadzic's Vice-president Koljevic. Although cameras of TV "Politika" patiently waited, none of them wished to (or perhaps dared?) say anything about the talks with the President of Serbia. Not even the usual official statement was issued from Milosevic's office. Obviously, the two-week term for accepting (or refusing) the peace plan leaves no time for hesitation and that the all-Serbian talks have already begun.

    The greatest mystery in all-Serbian relations is at the moment the relation of power between Milosevic and Karadzic. Although there have been rumours about a conflict between them for quite some time, it has still had no public manifestation. The analysts here quite obviously abstain from making any prognosis about Milosevic's peace-loving impact on the leaders in Pale. The possibility that the deja-vu pressures, media manipulations, threats will follow, is mentioned most frequently, but noone wishes to forecast the outcome of the conflict between the Serbian leaders on the two banks of the river Drina. Only the ultra-nationalist, Seselj, whose clairvoyance rating has rapidly dropped since his break with the Socialists, predicts that Milosevic and his wife, should they betray the Bosnian Serbs, will share the destiny of Aleksandar Obrenovic and Draga Masin, the Serbian royal couple which was killed at sleep in court by a group of rebellious army officers.

    For quite some time now, state television has not focused its cameras on its once favourite guest, Radovan Karadzic. Not a word could be heard about him in the central news program, and a controversy with the Serbian Television from Pale is in progress because the news broadcast from there are not transmitted by the RTV Serbia. There were no belligerent, "patriotic" commentaries either, in defence of Serbdom and against traitors who wished to put their signature on the shameful offers of the West (if one should choose to recall, these were the words used to comment on the Vance-Owen plan).

    The state media also hushed up Karadzic statement of about ten days ago that the offered maps were shameful and humiliating. Not even the subsequent, milder variant of the statement was given much publicity - that it was the matter of American dictation and that the maps could be a foundation for talks, should constitutional proposals for B&H be acceptable, should a solution for Sarajevo be found...

    Therefore, completely in accord with the new, peacelover's robe of the Serbian President who was offered a "carrot" in the form of gradual lifting of the sanctions should the Serbs accept the plan, which is quite necessary for the his regime if it wishes to survive together with Avramovic's stable dinar, the pro-regime media speak about the peace proposal for Bosnia with benevolence. The daily "Politika", in a text signed by initials H.D.A. (Hadzi Dragan Antic - the Director of the newsapers and a close Milosevic's friend) writes: "It is beyond doubt in the interest of Belgrade primarily to stop the war. Everything else must be resolved by political means, because that is the only way it can be solved. It is in the interest of Belgarde, but all the Serbs too, to establish peace and have the sanctions lifted..." While at it, "all the Serbs" are reminded that the Serbs from former B&H were offered about 45 per cent of the territories by the Vance-Owen plan and that the "Serbian people in former B&H has preserved most of its territories, and it is doubtful what would happen shoud war continue".

    Regrouping of the opposition

    Since cessation of the war and killing have become priorities for Milosevic, the war flag passed into the hands of a part of the Serbian opposition and the Serbian Orthodox Church. On the occasion of the latest Bosnian maps, the most belligerent statement, besides Seselj, was issued by the Church, to be exact by the Bishops' Conference headed by Patriarch Pavle. "Conciously and respinsible we declare that we would rather agree not to live than to betray our people, whom we have spiritually led for centuries along the crossbearing Chist's path, and to wash our hands of its present and future destiny". The Bishops' statement also reminds "that the great powers are responsible also for, God forbid, possible great and broad war in this space, as well as elsewhere in the world".

    Vojislav Kostunica, who was the only one besides Seselj that consistently criticized the Vance-Owen plan, called this statement "the only serious stance which is equal to the severity of the national situation". On the other hand, Zoran Djindjic, the head of the Democratic Party, who had spent the night on the eve of the Sarajevo ultimatum in Pale, said that the Serbian people in Bosnia had fought for its state and that Bosnia could be discussed only from the aspect of organization of a space with more than one state existing in it, and by no means a single unitarian state.

    Only the Civic Alliance remained true to its peaceful policy and condemned the statement of the Church which is "raising war fever" and "is engaged in the affairs of the state".

    Contrary to state media which have already started the propaganda campaign following in the footsteps of Milosevic's reconcilable attitude, serious Belgrade weeklies are restrained in their commentaries about the events in Serbia and across the Drina. Independent weekly "VREME" analyzes the offered map listing what is not acceptable for the Serbian party from the aspect of its proclaimed strategic objectives, but it does not get invloved in forecasts, especially not on the relation Belgrade-Pale. It carries pessimistic forecasts of the foreign media instead, such as "just another proposal, just another map, just another conference."

    The weekly NIN comments on the latest porposal as a "silent agreement to continue the war", claiming that there will be no peace until the warring parties sit down to negotiate instead of the USA, Russia, Germany, France and Great Britain. The NIN claims that both the parties in Bosnia are preparing to continue the war, but it does not believe that any "major battle" might take place, as it is announced. The Muslims would need another year to acquire enough arms to be able to cope with the Serbian forces and the Serbs do not lack arms, but they are in great need of manpower. Not only because they control 70 per cent of Bosnian territory, and there are twice as many Muslims and Croats, but because the number of deserters is increasing, those who have had enough of the war. Therefore, it is realistic to expect a long period of a "lukewarm war", the NIN predicts.

    However absurd it may sound, the one who is "not at war" and whose territory was not hit by a single shell needs peace the most - Milosevic. Domestic troubles weigh down heavily upon his mind, it will not be easy to handle Karadzic's Serbs who are expected to give up a great part of the occupied territories, to agree to a corridor narrowed down to the widt of a road, to postpone the dream of annexation, if they are still dreaming it at all. Is a coup against the leader of Bosnian Serbs being prepared from within, as rumour goes in Belgrade, or is Milosevic counting on dissatisfaction of the other conflicting parties, it is still quite uncertain.

    Despite Milosevic's hastiness - the official Belgrade has never been in favour of peace as it is now - there are few who believe that peace is in sight. At least not as a result of the Geneva agreement. War drums can still be heard, although they are weak, but now from places opposite the regime. Is it misfit to ask - will Milosevic succeed in this latest turn. At the moment, those who are against him are against peace. However absurd it may sound it is true.

    Branka Mihajlovic