Bosnian Serbs Likely To Reject Peace Plan
PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The mood was grim and defiant in Pale today as Bosnia’s Serbs voted on an international peace plan they were expected to resoundingly reject.
″Everyone will vote no,″ said Mico Stanic, a man in his mid-70s, as he cast his ballot for the referendum on a cool, cloudy day in the Bosnian Serb stronghold just east of Sarajevo. ″There is no way that we could accept this suicidal plan.″
Voting was to continue through Sunday. Announcement of results, expected to be overwhelmingly against the plan, will likely be announced a day or so later.
The plan, put forward by the United States, Russia, Britain, France and Germany, would reduce Serb holdings to 49 percent of Bosnia from the current 70 percent. A rival federation of Bosnian Muslims and Croats, who have accepted the plan, would get the remaining 51 percent.
Bosnian Serb leaders say the plan would prevent them from uniting with Serbia, the largest of the two remaining republics in Yugoslavia. The quest for such a union was the reason they started the war in April 1992 as Bosnia seceded from Yugoslavia.
The balloting was widely considered irrelevant by the outside world, including neighboring Serbia, which has branded it a crude attempt by Bosnian Serb leaders to legitimize their rejection of the plan.
The United States has warned that continued rejection could prompt the lifting of an arms embargo on the Muslim-led government, which has been outgunned by Bosnia’s minority Serbs in 28 months of war.
″The Serbs will never accept this shameful plan,″ said Radovan Karadzic, president of a self-proclaimed Serb state within Bosnia.
He said the plan gives most of Bosnia’s natural resources, factories, mines and strategic towns to the Muslim-Croat coalition.
″They are offering us 49 percent of a desert,″ Karadzic said in a recent interview. ″We won the war, and we should be asked which territories we want to give up.″
His bitter complaints, fervently spread by his own propaganda machine, are shared by most Bosnian Serbs.
″Whoever votes for this plan is a traitor of the Serbian nation,″ said Nenad Markovic, a Serb fighter in Grbavica, a Serb-held district of Sarajevo.
This will be the second time that Bosnia’s Serbs have been asked to vote on a peace plan. In a similar referendum in May 1993, Bosnian Serb officials said 96 percent of 1.2 million voters rejected a plan that would have divided Bosnia into 10 cantons.
Attempting to pressure Bosnian Serbs to accept the new plan, President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia already has cut off supplies to his former proxies because of their refusal to accept it.
Milosevic is regarded as the chief instigator of the war. But now he wants an end to more than two years of crippling trade sanctions imposed on Yugoslavia for its role in the war.
Peace-plan sponsors say sanctions cannot be lifted until Bosnian Serbs are persuaded to accept the proposal without conditions.
In the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Pale, east of Sarajevo, there was little sign Friday of shortages in shops or gasoline stations, and the mood appeared defiant.