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U.S., Russia broker peace pacts

Working on parallel diplomatic fronts, the United States and Russia brokered separate agreements Tuesday that were meant to move Bosnia-Herzegovina closer to peace.

In Moscow, Russia succeeded in persuading the leader of the Bosnian Serbs to permit the reopening of the airfield near the Bosnian Muslim town of Tuzla for relief flights of food and medicine.

In Washington, negotiators for the Muslim-dominated Bosnian government and the Bosnian Croats signed a framework agreement to unite the parts of the country that are under their control.

While the United States and Russia have a general agreement that Washington will pursue the Bosnian Muslims and Moscow will work on its Serbian friends, the diplomatic negotiations do not represent a carefully orchestrated effort to end the 23-month war in Bosnia, which has cost more than 200,000 lives.

Indeed, senior American officials acknowledged that the United States was not even aware of the details of the latest Russian plan that was accepted in Moscow on Tuesday by Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic after Russia promised to send its own observers to the Tuzla airfield.

While the two initiatives reflect the common desire in both capitals to find a formula for peace, the Russians also are motivated by a determination to foreclose any use of military force against the Serbs, who share the Eastern Orthodox Christian religion with the Russians.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has threatened air strikes against the Serbs if they refuse to allow the airport to open by Monday.

Karadzic, announced the concession on Tuzla after meeting Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev. The decision came a day after NATO fighter jets shot down four Serbian airplanes that the Western alliance said had violated a U.N.-appointed no-flight zone.