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Bosnian Serb General Still Smiling After Peace Is Stalled

May 07, 1993|From Reuters

PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina — One man smiled his way through the chaos after the self-styled Bosnian Serb parliament rejected the international peace plan for Bosnia.

As Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic stalked grimly to his limousine to drive back to Belgrade, Gen. Ratko Mladic, the commander of the Bosnian Serb army, grinned and pointed at the roof of the Pale hotel where the assembly met.

"I suppose I should be getting away from roofs like that, they might attract American missiles. But what the hell. Let them come," he said.

Journalists, who were able to see but not hear the closed parliament session through the windows of the room where the legislators met, believe Mladic single-handedly sabotaged efforts by Milosevic and Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis to get the Bosnian Serbs to sign the plan.

Early Thursday, the word from inside was that Milosevic's message--that there was no alternative to signing--was swaying even the hard-liners who dominate the parliament.

Mladic, a stocky, pugnacious war veteran, intervened at 3 a.m. when the debate had lasted almost 15 hours.

First he delivered his arguments against the plan, one listener told reporters. Then he set up a map showing the borders of the 10 autonomous Muslim, Serb and Croat provinces proposed by mediators Cyrus R. Vance and Lord Owen, comparing them with the territory occupied by his army.

The comparison showed how much territory that Serbs regard as strategic would be lost.

An hour later, Milosevic's hopes of a deal that would avert the threat of Western military intervention and help lift U.N. sanctions on Yugoslavia were in ruins.

The parliament has 82 members, more than half of them hard-liners.

Many of these are fighters or the parents of fighters. They are tough men steeped in Serbian nationalism and a cultural fixation with their nation's historic persecution by Croats and Ottoman Turks.

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