Extra UN troops ready for Bosnia

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The Independent Online
THE United Nations Security Council was expected last night to give its formal go-ahead for the Secretary-General to expand the UN's role in providing humanitarian aid in Bosnia. It would give him authority to call on about 4,000 extra troops, 1,800 of them British, who have been on stand- by for the past three weeks.

At the same time a proposal, hatched at the weekend meeting of European Community foreign ministers, to eject the rump Yugoslavia from the UN has run into trouble because Russia is worried that it would drive Belgrade further into the arms of the extremist followers of President Slobodan Milosevic.

It is understood that the UN resolution on troops for Bosnia affects humanitarian aid only. According to the Foreign Office, it does not include the monitoring of heavy weapons. The UN forces already in Bosnia have largely completed a weapons audit around Sarajevo and have begun at the three other towns: Gorazde, Banja Luka and Jajce.

Other troops on stand-by include 1,100 French, 1,200 Canadians and 400 Spanish Foreign Legionnaires, as well as a few hundred each from Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands. That makes about 4,000, who will join the troops already there.

But it may be three or four weeks before the British troops and their heavy vehicles are operational. Rather than travelling overland from Germany, the vehicles may take a sea route. The reasons cited are practical, diplomatic and financial. But Army sources said that if they were told to be there sooner, they could be.

The British Army expected its force to be based in Zagreb and to move into Bosnia from the north, but last night the British force's precise task was still to be decided.

On receipt of the Security Council decision, the countries which have offered forces will immediately send reconnaissance parties to apportion responsibilities on the ground. Having 'carved up' the job, they will each send reconnaissance teams and set up reception arrangements. Finally, in up to a month, the main bodies of troops will be united with their armour.

The British troops are expected to travel by air and the heavy equipment - including 45 Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicles - to sail to Split in Croatia.

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