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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Milosevic Refuses Peace Bid for Serbia

BELGRADE -- Serbia's president has refused the latest bid to get peace talks moving in former Yugoslavia, even though it could have led to an easing of tough economic sanctions.


After weekend talks with Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, President Slobodan Milosevic reiterated his call for sanctions to be lifted before he makes concessions.


A plan put forward by the United States, Russia, Britain, France and Germany would have lifted the sanctions in exchange for Milosevic recognizing the four republics which split from Yugoslavia: Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Slovenia.


In making the offer, the mediators were seeking to isolate rebel Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia in hopes that would improve chances for an overall peace.


Members of the five-nation Contact Group were reportedly heading to Belgrade on Monday for more talks. Mediators are acutely conscious that the conflict is in danger of spinning out of control.


In addition to Bosnia, where they are making no progress on ending 34 months of war, they face the prospect that Croatia's 1991 civil war might reignite.


The government there has ordered 12,000 UN peacekeepers, who have been inserted between Croatia and Serb forces, to leave beginning March 31.


But Milosevic made clear after a weekend of confidential talks with Kozyrev that he would not consider concessions, or direct negotiations with his rivals, unless sanctions are lifted.


Kozyrev said Milosevic should be rewarded for moves already made toward peace. The Serbian leader "should be helped with the lifting of sanctions," Kozyrev said, instead of being given more conditions. Recognition, Kozyrev added, "comes at the end."


The Serbian leader's nationalist rhetoric is widely regarded as one of the main causes of ethnic Serb rebellions in Bosnia and Croatia, where he backed them both materially and politically.


The United Nations imposed economic sanctions in May 1992, and they have contributed to Yugoslavia's economic morass. Half the population is unemployed, industrial production and living standards have plummeted.


Yet the Serbian leader would be vulnerable to criticism by nationalists at home if he were to offer recognition to the other republics. Ethnic Serb leaders in both Croatia and Bosnia still hold out the hope of joining Serbia.


Battlefields in Bosnia were reported to be mostly quiet Sunday, except for sporadic combat in the northwest Bihac pocket.


Bosnian radio reported more artillery and mortar fire around the town of Velika Kladusa in the northern part of the region where Bosnian army troops are battling forces loyal to rebel Moslem leader Fikret Abdic there.


In Sarajevo, one person was wounded by sniper fire from Serb positions, Bosnian radio reported Sunday. Tensions in the Bosnian capital rose Saturday when two Serbs were shot to death.


A senior Serb official, Nikola Koljevic, warned that the pair's deaths might lead to closure of the city's airport and a land route out of the city.