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Ethnic Discord : The Price of Peace : Amid talk of an accord, fears grow in Bosnia that even capitulation will not end the pain


SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Sanka and Ismet Ljumanovic are so despondent over their country's future that they are begging their refugee daughters and grandchildren to stay away.

"We want nothing else in life but to be together with them again, but I don't believe we will be able to live in what will be left after Bosnia is divided," said Sanka, whose daughters fled the siege of Sarajevo for Dubrovnik more than a year ago.

Rather than inspire thoughts of reunion and an end to the bloodshed, the plan for carving Bosnia-Herzegovina into three states has sparked doubts that even capitulation will allow them to survive.

European mediators and the triumphant nationalists who drafted the division plan in Geneva are on the verge of compelling the vanquished government to concede to their terms for peace.

Although all sides--including Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic--were to meet today in Sarajevo in what was billed as conclusive talks, international mediators called it off on Monday. A spokesman for the mediators said "all sides have not shown sufficient flexibility."

Lines have been drawn on a map to define one Serbian, one Croatian and one mixed but largely Muslim state, and Bosnia's depleted assets have been duly inventoried and provisionally doled out.

But even those so weary of the killing that they say they are ready to abandon their commitment to integration for any chance at peace fear the Geneva formula will not mean the end of Bosnia's suffering.

It is mostly an innate desire for survival among Bosnians like the Ljumanovic couple that compels them to heed the arguments of mediators Lord Owen of Britain and Norway's Thorvald Stoltenberg. The mediators say Sarajevo must accept the reality that no Western power is coming to Bosnia's rescue and that only surrender to the better-armed nationalists--Serbs and Croats--will end the war.

Foreign aid officials and even many top U.N. diplomats privately concede that the gerrymandered borders of the proposed new Bosnia leave it looking more like an ink splotch than a viable country.

"One only has to glance at the ridiculous contours of this new Bosnia to see that it was constructed with only one aim in mind--to appease the aggressors as much as possible by giving them the territory they seized," said Hasan Muratovic, the Bosnian government minister serving as liaison with U.N. forces. "There is absolutely no economic or administrative rationale for this division."

The 28% of Bosnian territory being apportioned to the beleaguered government is only about the size of Connecticut, which ranks 48th in area among U.S. states. It would likely be the only refuge for Muslims and families of mixed nationality, or about half of Bosnia's original 4.4 million people. That would make the population density more than twice that of the proposed Croatian and Serbian states.

Serbs who have already proclaimed independence within a rogue state they call the Serb Republic would gain internationally recognized sovereignty over 52% of Bosnia and the purported Croatian state of Herzeg-Bosna would be accorded 17% of the former Yugoslav republic's land.

The predominantly Muslim remnant still calling itself Bosnia would have only scanty and scattered farmland and no access to the Adriatic Sea. Highways would remain subject to blockades by hostile armed forces and the rump Bosnia's railroads would be little-used tracks leading to nowhere.

Worst of all, in the view of many in this still-integrated capital, is that Sarajevo--the remaining 3% of Bosnian land--may be doomed to indefinite division.

Under the accord fashioned in Geneva, Sarajevo would be placed under U.N. administration for at least two years, and the now-divided city of Mostar would be given over to European Community control.

"The people would love it if Sarajevo were to be a true U.N. protectorate, with U.N. defense forces, U.N. police and true international authority. But as it is envisioned in Geneva, the city would remain divided and closed," complained Muratovic. "Serbian law will prevail in the Serb-held areas and Bosnian law where the government is in control. Can you imagine what it will be like to have two police forces, two court systems and two sets of laws in what is supposed to be a single city? It will be chaos."

Sarajevo is currently surrounded by heavily armed Serbs who have sought to force an ethnic divide. They have succeeded in conquering more than 70% of the republic, leaving 200,000 dead and more than 2 million homeless. But most of the capital remains in government hands, and its 380,000 people remain staunchly opposed to division. While the Bosnian government advocated the disarming of all forces in and around the capital, the Serb gunmen loyal to nationalist warlord Radovan Karadzic have vetoed any settlement that would require them to withdraw from the neighborhoods they have seized.

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