by Timothy Elphick THE Catholic archbishop of Belgrade this week warned that Serbian willingness to agree to the Owen-Vance peace plan for Bosnia is a hollow sham intended to fool the West.
Archbishop Franc Perko said Serbia's first goal was to prevent international outrage at Serbian atrocities in the former Yugoslavia from turning into military action against the republic.
He said concessions made by Serbian politicians at the United Nations-sponsored peace talks in Geneva represented the first move in a dangerous game of double bluff.
The Geneva plan was this week the subject of desperate negotiations at the United Nations headquarters in New York, under the joint chairmanship of mediators Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance. The accord would partition Bosnia-Herzegovina into ten separately administered zones. Bosnian Serbs would lose as much as a quarter of the territory they now control.
"The assent of Serbia to the Vance-Owen plan is really a no'. It seems to me that the atmosphere and the overall situation have not changed." Archbishop Perko said.
"I fear that the Serbs are acting for the sake of appearances. They are very afraid of military intervention. and they're doing everything to ensure this does not happen. Unfortunately. I don't see many solutions through dialogue alone," he said.
The archbishop said that the people of Belgrade were fatigued by war and were suffering severe economic hardships. He said he was keeping open channels of communication with Serbian Orthodox leaders.
Archbishop Perko's remarks coincided with a new plea to Bosnia's leaders from Pope John Paul II to give the Owen-Vance proposals a chance. "There can be no reconciliation without patient and tolerant dialogue to reach acceptable solutions for all sides in view of an authentic and lasting
peace," the Pope said at his weekly general audience in the Vatican.
• A fact-finding delegation of British and Irish Church leaders which returned from Bosnia on Tuesday has said the resilience of those displaced by the war offers a sign of hope for the region's future.
The delegation, which included Catholic Bishop Kevin O'Connor, auxiliary in Liverpool, met the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle of Belgrade as well as Jewish and Muslim leaders.
"The deplorable practice, on all sides, of the destruction of places of worship is but one indication of the way religious symbols have taken on a national significance," the Churchmen said.