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Mediators concede peace plan failure, mull divided Bosnia

International negotiators raised a white flag Thursday over their plan to keep war-torn Bosnia intact.

It was a stunning turnabout.

"There won't be a lot of honor, and there won't be anywhere near the sort of settlement that I would have liked," said European Community envoy David Owen. "But I am a realist, and we have to live with what has happened on the ground."

Owen called on Bosnia's Muslim-led government to accept Serb-Croat proposals to divide the country into three ethnic zones. For months, Owen championed a plan he co-authored with former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to divide Bosnia into 10 ethnic areas with a jointly administered capital.

Many of the ethnic borders of the so-called "Vance-Owen plan" no longer stand following land grabs by all sides. Muslims, however, have come under the greatest pressure.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher, meanwhile, reaffirmed U.S. support for Bosnia's independence, but he did not rule out the proposed settlement.

"Our principal interest is in having a situation that is satisfactory to all three of the parties and would end the fighting and end the bloodshed," he said.

Owen said Bosnia-Herzegovina's Muslim president agreed to meet again next week with Serb President Slobodan Milosevic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman to discuss proposals for three ethnic areas with some form of central government.

But Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic said he couldn't accept a dismantling.

"Maps are now being drawn by people who killed 200,000 people," said Izetbegovic's foreign minister, Haris Silajdzic, during a U.N. human-rights conference in Vienna.

But Owen said the Muslims should consider the plan.

"It needs to be looked at seriously by anybody who wants to bring the war to an end," he said.