UN aid to Bosnia may have to end, mediator says: Muslims say warning could be a ploy to force through ethnic split

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The Independent Online
IF THE crisis in Bosnia worsens the United Nations could be forced to withdraw its humanitarian efforts, Thorvald Stoltenberg, the UN mediator in the war, told a closed meeting of the UN Security Council yesterday. 'There is a real risk that if the present downward spiral continues, it will be impossible for the UN to remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina,' Mr Stoltenberg warned.

As Muslim forces launched an offensive near the disputed town of Mostar, Bosnian government officials interpreted the UN warning as part of a campaign by Mr Stoltenberg and the EC mediator, Lord Owen, to force them to accept a Serbian and Croatian proposal to end the 15-month war by dividing Bosnia into three ethnic states.

But Mr Stoltenberg denied the charge, saying he was not seeking 'peace at any price'. He was confident the leaders in Bosnia would not make such an inference, adding: 'All three sides have told me they are in favour of talks . . . and I believe it is possible to find a durable settlement. There could be a meeting in Geneva next week.'

Sir David Hannay, the British ambassador to the UN and this month's president of the Security Council, denied any attempt to play politics with the partition plan. 'No one has an interest in an imposed solution,' he said. However, the net effect of Mr Stoltenberg's warning clearly puts pressure on the Muslims to come to the negotiating table.

In addition, the warning exposes the inadequacy of the present UN effort and is, in effect, an appeal to states to take the UN aid and peace- keeping mission more seriously, and provide extra funds.

Partition, if it comes, would add considerably to the humanitarian problems of Bosnia, according to a classified report from the US State Department that says such a solution could require the resettlement of

1.5 million to 2 million people. The report assumes masses of Serbs, Croats and Muslims will move, either by coercion or choice, and that would require a huge new effort by the UN

refugee agency. 'We are talking about enormous waves of people. Things could get much worse than they are now,' said a State Department

official.

At present, the UN cannot meet the aid needs of this summer, much less the needs of the coming winter, said Mr Stoltenberg. The UN effort is badly under-subscribed. It requires 8,800 tons of food a week, but only 3,000 tons are getting through, partly because supplies are blocked and troops distributing food are under attack from the Serbs and the Croats, and partly because of a lack of funds.

Venezuela's UN ambassador said last night that Third World members of the Security Council are considering blocking humanitarian supplies to Belgrade if Serbs continue to hinder aid convoys in Bosnia. US sources also said they were considering action to seal Serbia's borders completely.

LONDON - Britain is to send a squadron of 12 Jaguar attack aircraft to protect UN peace-keepers in the Muslim 'safe areas', Reuter reports.

The jets will be based in Italy, under Nato control. The US yesterday deployed 12 A-10 ground attack planes in Italy for the same purpose.

An Arab in Bosnia, page 9

Letters, page 21

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