Relief flights halted as RAF aircraft is fired on

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The Independent Online
THE United Nations yesterday suspended relief flights into the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, after hostile radar locked on to an RAF relief aircraft as it left the city for a return flight to Zagreb. The Hercules was reported to have been fired on by anti-aircraft cannon in the hills surrounding Sarajevo, writes Steve Crawshaw.

The attackers had apparently locked on to the aircraft twice, forcing it to fire evasive flares and chaff.

According to one UN official, 'the crew think they were fired upon by 20mm anti-aircraft cannon'. A UN official told Reuters news agency: 'I think we know who did it, but the incident will probably be put down to some bloody warlord rather than laid at the feet of the guilty party.'

The Serbs have been responsible for much of the worst violence in the Yugoslav war. One Yugoslav official insisted yesterday it would 'make no sense' for Serbian forces to attack a British plane when military action to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid is being contemplated. But Reuters quoted a UN official in Sarajevo as saying that the gun position had been identified, and was believed to be Serbian.

Frantic diplomatic manoeuvring is going on, ahead of next week's conference on Yugoslavia in London, which is due to bring together all the main players. Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian President, is reported to have shown himself ready to accept the idea of some form of UN protectorate in Bosnia.

For the moment, however, the main Bosnian strategy is still to emphasise the need for Western military intervention, to stave off the final surrender of the Bosnian government to Serbian forces. UN officials continue to assume that the outlook for Bosnia remains extraordinarily bleak, and point out that 'ethnic cleansing' is continuing.

There were isolated signs of hope. The government of the rump Yugoslavia said it accepted the administrative borders of the former federal Yugoslavia as international frontiers, and recognised the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina and its internationally recognised borders.

In a letter to the presidency of the UN Security Council, the Yugoslav Prime Minister, Milan Panic, said that his government 'firmly and categorically opposes the use of force to change borders between countries'.

Theoretically, such an assurance can pave the way for an end to the conflict, which erupted partly over Belgrade's refusal to accept Bosnian independence. It seems unlikely to have much effect in practice, however.

In Washington, a Senate report concluded that the 'ethnic cleansing' in the Serb-held areas of Bosnia has 'substantially achieved its goals'. The report said that random killings were a 'routine part' of the process of evacuating Muslim villages in Bosnia.

Nearly 1,000 women and children pulled out of Sarajevo, hours after the mortar attack on Monday night on a crowded refugee hotel, in which at least five people died.

Sanctions bite in Serbia, page 6