NATO provoked to draw Serbia into war, Belgrade journalist says


BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- A leading Belgrade journalist known for close ties to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has accused Bosnian Serb leaders of trying to "deliberately provoke" NATO attacks in the Bihac area in an effort to drag Serbia into war.

H. D. Antic, editor-in-chief of the daily Politika, writing in the wake of NATO airstrikes on Serbian positions yesterday, asserted that there will be no change in Belgrade's political course.

"The Serb leaders in Bosnia and Krajina have to understand that they cannot change Belgrade's peace policy by deliberately provoking air strikes -- they can only bring even more harm to their people."

The editorial was seen by diplomats as reflecting Mr. Milosevic's difficult position on the matter of inter-Serb relations. Reaction in Serbia to the latest NATO airstrikes has been generally negative.

In abandoning the Bosnian Serbs for their refusal to accept an international peace plan last August, Mr. Milosevic has drawn criticism from the opposition and elements of the Serbian army. The discontent has become more acute as the international community is perceived as taking an active role on the side of Bosnian Muslims.

There were angry scenes in the Serbian parliament this week as Mr. Milosevic's ruling Socialists blocked repeated opposition demands for a debate on the NATO airstrikes. Opposition

deputies accused the ruling party of treason and treachery; in turn, they were described as "warmongers" by Socialist deputies.

In his editorial, Mr. Antic wrote that the NATO attacks were "rightly" condemned by the Serbian people. NATO, he said, did not intervene when Muslim forces mounted an offensive from the United Nations safe zone of Bihac against Bosnian Serbs several weeks ago, setting off an exodus of tens of thousands of refugees, including Muslims loyal to regional chieftain Fikret Abdic.

"But this time, we can say with full responsibility," Mr. Antic wrote, "that the persons responsible for the NATO intervention were the Serbs who organized and carried out three air strikes on Bihac -- using anti-personnel bombs and napalm.

"What we have here is the desire to militarily defeat the [Muslim] 5th Corps, which could seem an acceptable objective if it were not for thousands of innocent civilians victimized by the conflict," Mr. Antic wrote.

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