Roberts Owen's Oct. 11 letter in response to Charles Krauthammer's Sept. 17 op-ed column on partitioning Bosnia was characteristic of officials--led by Richard Holbrooke, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and chief architect of the Dayton accords--who have staked their credibility on that agreement. For them, any policy change means failure.

The procedure for having the international community separate Bosnia into three independent entities has been established. One only needs to look to 1991 and how the West, following Germany's lead, divided Yugoslavia into what are now five independent countries, with Kosovo and possibly Montenegro next on the list. Kosovo, coincidentally, answers Mr. Owen's question on refugee movements. The mass population flux that occurred there during and after the NATO air campaign demonstrated how people move around in the Balkans: Albanians came pouring back into the province while the Serbs, many of whom were expelled from Croatia in 1995, left. In Bosnia, a large degree of separation already exists among the former warring factions, making partition easier.

While the ideal of a democratic and multiethnic Bosnia is appealing, it may be unrealistic. Forcing those in the Balkans to live together exacts a high price in U.S. money and manpower. Our interests would be better served if we let the people of the region determine their own fate.

ANDRE POPOV

Alexandria