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U.S. May Ease Sanctions if Serbia Keeps Vow to Cut Off Bosnia Allies

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The United States will consider easing economic sanctions against Serbia if President Slobodan Milosevic keeps his vow to cut off all assistance to the Bosnian Serbs, Secretary of State Warren Christopher said Tuesday.

“We’re going to be watching the situation very carefully because of the disappointment we had the last time that a similar intention was expressed,” he told reporters on his return flight from a Middle East trip. “But there have been favorable indications on the ground that they will try to stop the flow of assistance from Serbia to the Bosnian Serbs.”

Milosevic announced last week that Serbia was breaking off relations with the Bosnian Serbs over their rejection of a peace plan for war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“The information that we have at the present time is that there has been at least a partially effective attempt to close the border between Serbia and Bosnia,” Christopher said. “Up to this point, it appears that Milosevic is carrying out the intention that he publicly expressed.”

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Still, Christopher said he will be in no hurry to advocate lifting the embargo against Serbia and Montenegro, its partner in the rump Yugoslavia. He said the international community should not ease sanctions until Milosevic demonstrates for an extended time that he has severed all ties with the Bosnian Serbs. But he added, “I don’t rule out easing of the sanctions if there are verifiable deeds to follow the words from Milosevic.”

Christopher returned to Washington after a Middle East trip that focused on his effort to mediate a peace agreement between Israel and Syria, the region’s most intractable foes.

Although he conceded he was unable to point to progress on any specific issue, he said the atmosphere was far more businesslike and less ideological than it has been. Senior officials said Christopher will probably return to the region next month to continue the effort.

He is indispensable to the process now because Syria refuses to negotiate face to face with Israel, so all of their messages are passed through the U.S. go-between.

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But Christopher said Syrian President Hafez Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin have begun to talk about the conditions--and costs--of making peace.

A senior State Department official said the process requires almost constant tending by Christopher. If it is too long between trips to the region, Assad and Rabin may go back to the sterile ideological debate that marked earlier talks.


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