President Clinton has approved a proposal to ease trade and other economic sanctions against Serbia in a new effort to end the war in Bosnia, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.
In return, President Slobodan Milosevic would have to recognize Bosnia as a sovereign country, a blow to his hopes for a Greater Serbia, and agree to other conditions designed to end the 34-month ethnic conflict.
The aim is to drive a wedge between Milosevic and the Serbs in Bosnia who have rejected past peace proposals by isolating them from their patrons and arms suppliers in Belgrade.
The main lure for Milosevic would be at least temporary renewal of trade and fuel supplies.
The sanctions, imposed by the U.N. Security Council, have devastated Serbia’s economy. Under the proposal cleared by Clinton and the governments of Britain, France, Germany and Russia, economic sanctions would be lifted - or later reimposed - depending on Milosevic’s actions.
Milosevic would be required to recognize three other former Yugoslav republics, Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia, thereby acknowledging the breakup of what once was Yugoslavia, and permit stricter policing of his border with Bosnia.
Weapons are still getting through to the Serbs in Bosnia despite a pledge by Milosevic to cut them off, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Under the proposed deal, Milosevic would have to agree to the posting of more monitors on Serbia’s border with Bosnia to check on his compliance with a pledge to stop arming Serbs in Bosnia.
The official stressed the sanctions would be lifted only temporarily and would be reimposed if the Serbian leader reneged. Unaffected by the plan, he said, would be Serbia’s “illegitimacy” status on the world stage - its exclusion from the World Bank and other international groups.
The plan will be presented to Milosevic in the next few days, the official said.
Representatives of the so-called Contact Group - from the United States, Britain, France, Russia and Germany - that has sought in vain for a peace formula met in Paris, but participants declined to talk to reporters after the meeting.
The senior U.S. official in Washington said he was reluctant to divulge details of the proposal even before they were presented to Milosevic. But he said a “leak” to The Washington Times of a memorandum that did not give a complete account prompted his disclosure. The newspaper published some elements of the plan Tuesday.
Peace efforts have stalled over the Bosnian Serbs’ refusal to consider a five-nation peace plan that would set up ethnic zones with them controlling 49 percent and a Muslim-Croat federation 51.
The Serbs, holding nearly 70 percent of the country, have rejected the plan.