Besieged Bosnia asks UN for military aid

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The Independent Online
NEW fighting in Bosnia yesterday brought calls for the United Nations to back military intervention in the former Yugoslav republic.

Bosnian Serbs launched attacks in the north of the country in an apparent attempt to link up with Serbian communities in Croatia, and troops backed by tanks assaulted Bosnian defence positions around the town of Gorazde.

Bosnia appealed for international military assistance to protect the 70,000 inhabitants of Gorazde, a Bosnian Muslim town which has been under siege for two months, and asked for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council. In a letter to the President of the Security Council, Bosnia's President, Alija Izetbegovic, called on the UN to issue an ultimatum to Serbia to end its attack on the city. The Croatian government also appealed to the Security Council for action.

What Bosnia got in return was a request by the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, to the Security Council for 500 more peace-keepers for the humanitarian efforts at Sarajevo airport. He said the operation at Sarajevo 'continues to hang by a slender thread'. The Security Council last night approved the request. The additional 500 staff will bring the total number of UN troops at the airport to 1,600. The 500 would be used for air traffic control, an artillery-locating radar platoon, a helicopter unit and signals and medical platoons. A UN official yesterday warned of the danger of flying in aid after three French aircraft landing at the airport were hit by small-arms fire. Britain announced yesterday it was preparing to send a medical team to Sarajevo to treat sick and injured children, instead of flying them out of the combat zone. Government sources said evacuation could be hazardous and some groups had threatened to attack them if the children were all Serbs. 'It might make great television, but it could be very dangerous,' one source said.

Although contingency plans are being discussed for dealing with the evacuation of 60 children to Britain, John Major made it clear to the Commons that the Government did not favour an airlift, saying: 'If it is possible to treat the children on the spot, near to their families, with people around them who speak their language and in relatively familiar surroundings, then that is obviously the best way.'

Mr Major is planning to discuss the aid with Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in London on Thursday.

The Prime Minister was supported by Neil Kinnock, the Labour leader, and Tory MPs, in ruling out ground troops, while still offering to provide air cover under UN auspices. He said he could not give a blanket commitment to recall Parliament during the summer recess if more British troops were needed.

Representatives from Bosnia's Muslim, Croatian and Serbian communities will be at negotiations in London tomorrow, a spokesman for Lord Carrington said.

Lord Carrington, who chairs the EC's peace conference, denied reports that he was ready to quit. 'I was asked by the European Community whether I would do this and I don't think you give up because things have gone very badly, unless those who appointed you want to,' he said.

Upsurge of fighting, page 8

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