WASHINGTON -- Bosnia's Muslim president, in a new twist on his bid to draw U.S. military support, urged the United States yesterday to enforce a cease-fire and help disarm warring factions before a comprehensive settlement of the war in Bosnia is reached.
Drawing on the Clinton administration's offer to help enforce an eventual overall settlement, the proposal by Alija Izetbegovic would have the effect of using U.S. forces to freeze the military situation where it now stands in a partial agreement, strengthening the Muslims' position in subsequent talks on territory.
His plan, which seemed unlikely to win either U.S. or Serbian support, came as the stalled negotiations among Bosnia's Muslims, Serbs and Croats resumed at the United Nations under the mediation of former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance for the United Nations and Lord David Owen representing the European Community.
U.S. officials had voiced hope that U.S. air drops of humanitarian aid, begun late Sunday, would help spur the talks forward.
But reports from Sarajevo yesterday said that much of the food and medicine dropped by U.S. planes may have fallen into the hands of Serbs waging a fierce attack yesterday on the government enclave where the airdrop took place.
Mr. Izetbegovic said, "According to my information, these parcels didn't reach those they were intended for."
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that if "there are a few things that get into the hands of others, let's remember these are humanitarian supplies and we shouldn't consider cutting off or punishing the people who need this most because some of it might go astray or get to other people who might need the supplies."
Mr. Izetbegovic, a shrewd tactician who has been carefully rationing the time he gives to negotiations, spoke to reporters at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank, before leaving for the United Nations and a meeting last night with Mr. Vance and Lord Owen.
To the frustration of the intermediaries, he will not head the Muslim delegation at the talks, and said yesterday that he would remain in New York only two or three days.
But while he is here, he said, the talks could reach agreement on military issues.
Mr. Vance and Lord Owen have sought to win agreement on three aspects of an overall settlement: constitutional principles, military arrangements, and a map dividing Bosnia-Herzegovina into 10 autonomous provinces.
All three parties have agreed to the constitutional principles; Serbs and Croats have approved the military plan, and Croats have approved the map.
The Muslims have balked at approving the military plan because it would not place tight enough control over heavy weapons, of which, they say, the Serbs have a disproportionate share.
Mr. Izetbegovic said Muslims would be willing to sign a military agreement if it called for "clear and physical control" over heavy weapons.
"The mechanism for implementation of the agreement should become effective and the United States should do whatever they can to implement this military agreement," he said.
Mr. Izetbegovic said he had not raised the proposal in his weekend meeting with Vice President Al Gore, and was unveiling it before the media first to draw support.
The United States has pledged only to help enforce an overall settlement, with ground troops if necessary. A senior official, while not ruling out Mr. Izetbegovic's proposal, reiterated the U.S. refusal to use its forces to impose a settlement.
"If you start to implement partial agreements you get to real tricky questions [about] where troops ought to be and what they can do," the official said.
Mr. Izetbegovic said Serbs had taken the United States' refusal to intervene immediately in the conflict as a green light to step up their aggression.
"When they heard that there would be no intervention, that there is no danger of any military activities in Bosnia, they just intensified their aggressions by intensified ethnic cleansing throughout the country."
As the talks opened yesterday, Fred Eckhard, a spokesman for the mediators, said: "If the parties leave New York without an agreement, then it is getting to a point where you have to get them around the table again, which has not been easy."
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic conferred for more than two hours with the mediators.
"We touched many topics today and we are expecting some plenaries in the next days and some bilateral talks," Mr. Karadzic said. The mediators were to meet with Croatian leader Mate Boban before meeting Mr. Izetbegovic.