LONDON -- As heavy shelling continued to scar war-ravaged Bosnia-Hercegovina, the latest efforts to find a peaceful solution to the bloodshed in the Balkans war came to a slow start Wednesday in London.
'Judging from what happened yesterday and today in Sarajevo, there is little cause for optimism,' a disillusioned Bosnian Foreign Minister Haris Silajic, said at the end of the first day of talks.
Silajic reiterated his call for a multinational military intervention in Bosnia-Hercegovina, saying the current search for negotiated peace came too late, in spite of 'some very strong words.'
'Judging by our previous experiences, the aggressor will not be stopped by mere condemnations or sanctions,' Silajic said.
But Western support for military intervention appeared to be waning and many delegations called instead for tough non-military measures including a tightening of sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas suggested aerial surveillance of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
The Western delegations said that while they would get tough if Serbia did not cooperate in the search for peace, they would offer economic aid, trade and other incentives if it did.
'The world's democracies -- most certainly including the United States -- will welcome the Serbs to their midst, and offer them greater security than they could ever hope to enjoy under the law of the jungle now prevailing,' acting U.S Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger told the conference.
'But those who choose the irrational path of hatred and aggression cannot expect membership in the newly enlarged community of nations,' he said.
The two main antagonists in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim Slav president, and Radovan Karadzic, who is seen as the leader of Bosnian Serbs, indicated they would present new initiatives to the conference. They did not elaborate.
Several foreign ministers called for harsh punishment to be meted out to those responsible for 'ethnic cleansing' -- the expulsion of tens of thousands of non-Serbs from their homes in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
'In political terms the crucial question is: Where does the main source of the evil lie?' German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said. 'The answer is obvious: in Belgrade.
'The response of the disintegration of former Yugoslavia -- which was their own fault -- was a ruthless war aimed at creating an ethnically cleansed greater Serbia,' he said.
The prime minister of the Serb-dominated rump Yugoslav federation, Milan Panic, joined the Western leaders in condemning 'ethnic cleansing,' the mistreatment of prisoners of war and refugees, the supply of weapons into Bosnia-Hercegovina and 'all use of force to seize territory or change borders.'
'In other words,' Panic said, 'Yugoslavia embraces and totally supports the four principles set forth by (British) Prime Minister John Major and (U.N.) Secretary-General Boutros Ghali as the foundation of this London peace conference.'
Ghali, in his opening comments, warned that 'there are some acts of governments that sovereignty cannot shield' -- a reference to calls for the establishment of an international court to try Serbian politicians on charges of genocide.
Both co-chairmen, Ghali and Major, describing the aims of the conference, set modest short-term targets and ambitious long-term goals.
They warned against any expectations of swift, tangible results, but said the meeting would form the foundation of a solid negotiating process that would continue in Geneva, within the U.N. framework.
Officials said the conference wanted to go beyond attempts to negotiate a cease-fire after so many were broken almost as soon as they were brokered.
Ghali and Major said they hoped the conference will adopt a 'statement of principles' and an action program setting out the standards for a settlement.
The documents were likely to call for respect of human and minorities rights and state that there can be no recognition of borders changed by force.
'So, I see our task at this conference as ensuring humanitarian help, restoring respect for human rights and setting in hand a process which will lead to a just and enduring peace,' Major said.
The talks hit a snag when Karadzic, leader of the Serb military forces that control an estimated 70 percent of Bosnia-Hercegovina, angrily stormed out of his seat as an official observer away from the main meeting table.
He later returned to the conference building.
The heads of state of each republic of the former Yugoslavia were invited to the conference table, but Karadzic and other ethnic leaders were placed in a separate room to follow talks on closed-circuit television. They were allowed to contribute only through mediators.
About 40 high-level delegations are participating in the conference, including the United States, the European Community, Russia, China, Japan, U.N. agencies and the Organization of Islamic Conference. Most are represented at the level of foreign minister.