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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bosnia: Allies Bicker While Epidemics Loom

SARAJEVO -- Differences emerged Tuesday between Russia and the West over rewarding Serbian-led Yugoslavia for its break with Bosnian Serbs who have rejected the latest Bosnia peace plan.


Russia's Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev was quoted as saying Western governments had to show greater willingness to reward Belgrade for its support for the plan.


At the same time UN relief officials voiced alarm over "appalling" conditions in refugee camps in Serb-held Croatia where thousands of Moslems have fled from the Bihac enclave in Bosnia.


They said refugee children were suffering from diarrhea and dehydration, and there was a risk of measles epidemics at two improvised camps.


Kozyrev was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying Western policy towards Belgrade was hampered by "bureaucratic inertia" and "little flexibility."


"Very great reserve is being shown in the work with our Western partners," Kozyrev said on his way from Zagreb to Berlin after a brief tour of former Yugoslavia.


The United States, Britain, France and Germany, which drew up the peace plan along with the Russians, want Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to agree to international monitoring of his blockade against the Bosnian Serbs before they start relaxing a UN trade embargo on Belgrade.


But Kozyrev is pushing for swift action to ease the sanctions against Yugoslavia, which now comprises Serbia and Montenegro.


"Our conviction is that at least some sanctions should be immediately lifted to reward Belgrade for its courageous approach," Kozyrev said in Zagreb on Monday.


Bosnian Serb leaders said a referendum held over the weekend had vindicated their opposition to the peace deal.


As election officials began a second day of counting ballots, the referendum commission chief estimated a 90 percent turnout and said 96 percent had voted "no" to the peace plan. Final results are expected to be announced at a meeting of the Bosnian Serb assembly on Thursday.


Bosnian Serb leaders called the referendum to back their opposition to the plan, which would divide the former Yugoslav republic roughly in half between Serbs and a federation of their Moslem and Croat foes.


The international community has dismissed the vote as an orchestrated sham and urged the Serbs to reverse their stance.


In the Serb-held Krajina region of Croatia, relief officials faced a growing crisis as thousands of Moslem refugees refused to return to the Bihac enclave in Bosnia.


An official of the UN Children's Fund said the agency had begun vaccinations to try to stave off possible epidemics among children at improvised camps at Batnoga and Turanj.


"The situation in the two camps is appalling. Health and sanitation conditions are poor and there is a real risk of outbreaks of epidemic diseases," said Thomas McDermott, UNICEF special representative for former Yugoslavia.


The United Nations wants 30,000 Moslem refugees scattered through Serb-held Croatia to return to the Bihac region which they fled last week after the collapse of breakaway Moslem forces fighting troops of the Moslem-led Bosnian government.