Bosnia: End fighting by force, says UN commander: Two countries torn apart by civil war, two crises for humanity, both crying out for the world to intervene

Click to follow
THE United Nations commander in Sarajevo said yesterday that the only hope for the besieged city was for the UN to stop the war by force and put those responsible for the bloodshed on trial. Efforts to broker a ceasefire were in tatters, he said, and the UN's humanitarian mission was a failure.

Brigadier-General Adnan Abdelrazek, the Egyptian commander of 1,400 blue helmets in Sarajevo, told a news conference: 'There is no ceasefire. We are not making any progress. This situation is deteriorating . . . All our efforts here to save lives and restore utilities (have) failed.'

The general's bleak assessment followed an urgent request by Bosnian army officials for UN assistance to evacuate 10,000 civilians from the suburb of Otes, about five miles from the centre of Sarajevo, which last night was reported to have fallen to Serbian attackers after a four-day offensive during which both sides sustained heavy casualties.

If Serbian forces secure Otes they will tighten the noose around Sarajevo and strengthen their hold on western suburbs that flank key roads and the airport.

Giving what he emphasised was his personal opinion, Gen Abdelrazek said the United Nations should 'show we intend to intervene by force if need be to stop the war and save the population, and we should also put on trial the people responsible for this bloodshed'. He said the UN Security Council should set a deadline of no more than a month before taking action. Shortly after he spoke a mortar round hit the terminal building at Sarajevo airport, slightly wounding two Portuguese police attached to the UN peace-keeping force.

His call came amid signs that the Security Council is moving towards a resolution committing itself to military enforcement of the no-fly zone over Bosnia.

The United States, concerned by Serbian flights, is studying ways to enforce a UN ban on overflights of Bosnia and is consulting allies to obtain a resolution authorising the use of force. The British Government is now expecting the council to begin discussing this week a new resolution, Whitehall sources said yesterday. A senior British minister said that, although Serbian- controlled air-strips were no longer being used to launch bombardments in Bosnia, it had been established that they were being used for helicopter flights which could be used for the movement of troops and materiel. UN monitors say there have been at least 175 flights since the ban was imposed.

Although there have been strong signs that the Foreign Office has been keener on stepping up UN military involvement than the Ministry of Defence - with John Major also cautious about putting British troops at risk - a common British policy was agreed last week between Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary and Malcolm Rifkind, the Secretary of State for Defence.

A Foreign Office source indicated that it was important to ensure that military action against Serbian flights does not put at greater risk the lives of servicemen protecting aid convoys.