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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Truce Wanes, Big Powers Scramble

PARIS -- The major powers began a last-minute effort to prevent the resumption of large-scale war in Bosnia on Friday, seeking a diplomatic solution to extend a crumbling cease-fire due to expire Monday.

The political directors of the Contact Group -- the United States, Russia, France, Britain and Germany -- met at the French Foreign Ministry to seek an elusive formula coupling a renewal of the cease-fire with progress on mutual recognition among the former Yugoslav republics and on a peace plan for Bosnia.

"The whole thing is wrapped together," a European diplomat said.

"The [Moslem-led] Bosnian government has made clear it won't prolong the cease-fire unless there is substantial political progress on the peace plan and recognition by Serbia," he said.

The Contact Group was also due to discuss ways to improve the safety of UN peacekeepers in Bosnia. Two French peacekeepers were killed two weeks ago. There were four sniper attacks Thursday, but no casualties.

UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali appealed to the major powers not to withdraw peacekeeping troops from Bosnia. "I hope that we will be able to convince the member states that their presence is essential, both in Bosnia and Croatia, so that they will be able to continue the peace process," said in Canberra, Australia.

But if widespread fighting were to erupt when the four-month truce elapses Monday, pressure for a pullout seems bound to mount in France, which has the largest contingent in Bosnia and is in the midst of a presidential election.

Diplomats said the Contact Group was looking for a formula that would enable Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to recognize Bosnia-Herzegovina in exchange for an easing of some UN economic sanctions.