UN divided over forces for Bosnia

Click to follow
The Independent Online
First Edition

AS Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs, indicated yesterday that the Serbs had agreed to put heavy weapons surrounding Sarajevo under United Nations supervision, a row was brewing at UN headquaters about the role of foreign troops that are about to be dispatched to Bosnia.

Even as France and Britain announced that their forces were being sent to Bosnia to protect shipments of humanitarian aid, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), lodged objections to the plan, diplomatic sources said.

The UNHCR is refusing British, French and US protection of aid convoys because the agency feels it cannot compromise its neutrality by co-operating with national military forces which are outside the control of the UN.

The stand-off between the aid agency and the sponsors of the UN resolution authorising the use of force threatens to spill over into another row between the UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali and the Security Council. Mr Boutros-Ghali has already refused to approve the expansion of the UN peace-keeping force in Sarajevo to begin supervising heavy weapons, and he appears determined to shut down the entire UN peacekeeping operation in Bosnia, once the allied forces arrive. As a compromise Britain wants the 1,800 troops it is sending to Bosnia to be put under UN command and provided with blue helmets to signify that they are part of an international humanitarian effort. Sir Peter Inge, the Chief of the General Staff and senior US and French officials will hold a meeting with Mr Boutros Ghali in New York today in an attempt to provide UN status for the force. That would ease the UNHCR's objections and allow the first aid convoys to go into Bosnia, protected by forces with the authority to shoot back if attacked by either the Serbian or Muslim side.

'We don't want national troops fighting so that we can bring in supplies to Bosnia,' a UNHCR spokesman in Geneva said.

The UNHCR has a long-standing policy of maintaining strict neutrality in its operations and it refuses to accept military or other assistance from national governments. according to senior UNHCR officials, the organisation was deceived into assisting the allied forces in Northern Iraq when the returning Kurdish refugees were provided with military safe havens, and it has no intention of compromising its neutrality in Bosnia.

In Sarajevo, UN sources said yesterday they were convinced that the Serbs were responsible for shooting at an RAF plane on Tuesday. It was reported that the commander of the UN protection force, General Satish Nambiar, planned to make a strong protest to the Serbs. Gen Nambiar visited Sarajevo yesterday,

Meanwhile, the former Polish prime minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, is due to arrive in Zagreb tomorrow to begin an investigation on behalf of the UN Human Rights Commission of allegations of widespread brutality in the war zones.

There were reminders, too, of yet more possible flashpoints to come in Yugoslavia. One of the political leaders in Sandzak, a mainly Muslim region in southern Serbia and Montenegro, may seek to secede from the rump Yugoslavia, if it is internationally recognised.

Rasim Ljajic, secretary of the Muslim Democratic Action Party, said: 'We Muslims want to receive the status of an entirely separate people making up a new Sandzak federation with a right to self-determination and even secession.'