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Source: Washington Post Foreign Service
Diplomatic War Games? Serbs Seek Carter Imprimatur to Legitimize Demands
By John Pomfret, Washington Post Foreign Service
ZAGREB, Croatia, Dec. 16 - Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb
leader, has lured former president Jimmy Carter toward Bosnia in a
diplomatic extension of the military strategy that has proved
successful throughout the 32-month Bosnian war.
Karadzic, a psychiatrist turned nationalist strongman, has long
sought through force - recently in combat in the Bihac pocket of
Bosnia - to outpace U.S. and allied diplomatic efforts to broker a
peace and preserve a unitary Bosnian state. This week, Karadzic took
steps to outsmart the West on diplomatic grounds.
The Bosnian leader's latest tactic developed, officials here
say, because force, for now, seems to have left the Serbs wanting.
Their confrontation with the Muslim Bosnian army in the Bihac pocket
has not rolled along as well as the Serbs would like, they said.
Karadzic has sought to use Carter, a prominent international
mediator, to introduce his favorite element - chaos - into a
diplomatic mix that has so far proved incapable of ending the war.
Throughout the conflict, Karadzic has adeptly sowed and profited
from confusion and rifts between the United Nations and NATO, among
NATO members and between the United States and Russia.
Karadzic's motivation in inviting Carter is to seal the fate of
an internationally brokered peace plan that would force the Serbs to
surrender about one-third of the 72 percent of Bosnia they occupy to
a federation of Croats and Muslims. Under the plan, while the Serbs
would be guaranteed complete autonomy of their "province," it would
remain inside Bosnia.
The Bosnian Serbs rejected the plan over the summer.
Carter's entry and the possibility of a new proposal is likely
to create opportunities and delays for the Serbs to strengthen their
hold on their already substantial territorial gains, according to
officials in the Balkans.
By inviting the former American president to Pale, headquarters
of the Bosnian Serbs, Karadzic also is seeking to boost his position
among Serbs and in comparison to President Slobodan Milosevic of
Serbia, the mastermind of Yugoslavia's wars of secession.
A visit from Carter would be a boon to the nationalist leader,
who is engaged in a slow-moving but significant struggle with
Milosevic to lead the Serbs.
The willingness of any of the world's powers to consider
Karadzic's proposal highlights the grim impasse into which
international peace efforts have fallen. Initially cool to the idea,
the Clinton administration agreed to transport Carter to Sarajevo
and briefed him on the conflict.
That the Clinton administration did not consult with leaders of
the Muslim Bosnian government over the propriety of such a move is
an indication of its desperation in finding a solution to the
Bosnian war, a senior Western diplomat said.
Several analysts predict the results will be an increasingly
alienated Bosnian Muslim government and a Bosnian Serb "state"
emboldened by its ability to determine the direction and pace of
negotiations. The peace effort, they said, will be left more
Balkanized than the Balkans itself, with at least five negotiating
groups, including the former president's conflict resolution team,
tripping over each other in their efforts to end the war.
"It's another cook in the kitchen," said a U.N. political
analyst. "But the Serbs, because they hold most of the territory,
will come out on top."
Karadzic has used psychological methods before in his quest for
a separate Serb state. He and his top general, Ratko Mladic, are
widely credited with perfecting the concept of a terrorizing siege,
like the kind leveled against Sarajevo since April 1992 that has
left more than 10,000 people dead from mortars, artillery and
The strategy continues to wreak havoc: on Thursday three men
were gunned down by Serb snipers in Sarajevo.
The Serb leader made his offer this week in classic style -
during an interview with CNN. He made six promises - including open
roads for aid and the protection of human right - that he said would
occur within 24 hours in order to set the stage for Carter's
But true to their reputations as master dealmakers, the Serbs
said today the promises were part of a package deal that hinged on
Karadzic's vice president, Nikola Koljevic, told U.N. officials
tonight that the Serbs want four concessions in exchange for
carrying out their vows to Carter, U.N. sources said.
These included regular flights from Sarajevo's airport to
Belgrade, more food aid, buses from Serb territory to the airport
and the expulsion of the Bosnian army from a demilitarized zone on
Mount Igman above Sarajevo, the sources said.
Today, Serbs allowed the second convoy in two months into the
besieged Bihac pocket. But as of today, the Sarajevo airport, which
was shut down by the Serbs on Nov. 21, suspending the longest
airlift of food supplies in history, remained closed. U.N. officials
said they expected it to open Saturday for U.N. military flights and
on Monday for aid flights.
U.N. officials said they believed Carter would arrive in Zagreb
on Sunday for a briefing at U.N. headquarters and then travel to
Sarajevo and Pale, the mountain stronghold of the Bosnian Serbs 10
Jonathan Eyal, a Balkans expert at the Royal United Services
Institute, a London-based think tank, said he believes that Karadzic
has two goals with his new proposal: to gain time and to move
seriously toward an end of the war on Serb terms.
"The reality is that the Serbs have gobbled up everything they
need. From their perspective, the time is right for peace; the only
question is how to settle," he said.
While the five-nation "contact group," which drew up the latest
peace plan for Bosnia, has recently hinted that Karadzic's faction
could form some type of confederal relationship with Serbia, Eyal
contended that Karadzic is no longer interested in that. Karadzic
wants his Bosnian Serb state recognized by the United Nations, Eyal
"It is a much more delicate game," he said. "Karadzic is no
longer interested in a united Serbia right now. That's a long-term
goal. But now he wants an independent state because the next battle
will be over who will be the leader of the Serbs.
"Once he joins with Serbia, he loses power. The only way for him
to continue is if he has his own state," Eyal said.
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