War: Crash shows risks of peacekeeping

A UN helicopter crashed in Bosnia, killing 12 people. Among the dead were a senior international diplomat who had been trying to maintain the fragile peace. Andrew Marshall says the accident shows yet again the multiple risks run by the peacemakers in the Balkans.
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Just travelling around Bosnia can be lethally dangerous, as anyone who's ever been will know. The roads are poor, the weather is changeable, the terrain is difficult and the transport infrastructure is in an appalling state.

The last journey of the UN peacemakers started when a Ukrainian helicopter leased to the UN left Sarajevo early yesterday morning, headed for Bugojno and the northern town of Brcko. According to one of the survivors, the weather was fine when they left , but they encountered dense fog 20 miles east of Bugojno. They attempted to gain altitude, but ran into a mountainside. Four Ukrainian crew members survived the crash; the 12 others did not.

German diplomat Gerd Wagner, 55, one of the dead, was was responsible for easing the return of refugees to their prewar homes - one of the most important parts of the 1995 Dayton accord. Wagner also helped to try to broker relations between the Muslims and Croats who are supposed to co-operate in governing the half of Bosnia they control.

The Nato Secretary-General, Javier Solana, said the death was a serious blow to international peace efforts. "His death constitutes a major loss to the Bosnian peace effort. I can only hope that the parties to the Dayton peace agreement commemorate his loss of life by redoubling their efforts to achieve the goal of lasting peace," he said.

One of the two dead Britons was named as 37-year-old Charles Morpeth, who was said to be on secondment from the Foreign Office to the UN in Bosnia. Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, paid tribute to Mr Morpeth, married with one child, and said that he was "deeply shocked and distressed" to hear of the crash. Morpeth had previously served in the Army and in the UN department of the Foreign Office. The others killed were five Americans, four Germans, a Briton and a Pole.

Mr Cook pointed out that the humanitarian officials, military and civilian workers all worked in the face of huge odds in Bosnia. "The accident is a further tragic reminder of the risks that all those involved in trying to bring about a lasting peace in Bosnia run on a daily basis," he said.

Last year, a plane carrying the US commerce secretary, Ron Brown, from Tuzla to Dubrovnik hit a mountain in a heavy storm, and Brown and 34 others aboard were killed. Two years ago, three key US officials died in an accident when their armoured personnel carrier slid down a ravine on the treacherous Mount Igman road outside Sarajevo. A number of soldiers have been killed or injured driving along the bad roads, and civilian drivers on aid convoys constantly face tough conditions.

Staff members from Wagner's office hung a spray of white roses on the front door of the building yesterday, inscribed: "Lest we forget their sacrifice for peace."