BOSNIA CRISIS: UNITED NATIONS: World helpless to aid victims

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The despair that has engulfed the United Nations headquarters in New York since the fall of Srebrenica, mixed with anger that it is being saddled with the blame for the debacle, was compounded yesterday by deepening concern about the thousands of refugees from the city.

Anxiety was underlined by the director for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in New York, Soren Jessen-Petersen, who said that up to 14,000 people, mostly women, children and the elderly, were crowded into the Tuzla airbase, where conditions were "absolutely appalling".

Meanwhile, UNHCR officials had still not been able yesterday to ascertain the whereabouts of the thousands of younger men believed to have been bussed out of Srebrenica to Bosnian Serb territory. "The fate and the condition of these men is a matter of deep concern," Mr Jessen-Petersen said.

The UN hurriedly denied reports that the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, had indicated that he favoured using military force to retake Srebrenica. On Wednesday, the Security Council adopted a resolution inviting Mr Boutros-Ghali to use "all resources available" to him to restore Srebrenica as a safe haven. Many in the UN were angered by the resolution, which they considered little more than a move by national capitals to shift responsibility back to the UN.

The Secretary-General has written to the Security Council indicating his preference in the short term for exploring diplomatic means to win back Srebrenica. His envoy, Thorvald Stoltenberg, left Vienna yesterday for talks with the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, in Belgrade. Today, he is expected to visit the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, in Pale. Privately, UN officials see little prospect of restoring the safe area.