Bosnian Serbs face new threat of air strikes

United Nations forces made public a tougher policy against the Bosnian Serbs yesterday, warning that they would call in Nato air strikes if civilians were attacked in the mainly Muslim UN "safe areas". At the same time, representatives of the five-power Contact Group, comprising the United States, Russia, Britain, France and Germany, met in London to examine proposals for lifting UN sanctions on Serbia in exchange for Serbian recognition of Bosnia and Croatia.

Diplomats said there was a sense of urgency about the London meeting, as fighting in Bosnia had increased in the past week and all but buried a four-month ceasefire due to expire on 1 May.

"We are at a very dangerous moment," the European Union's mediator, Lord Owen, said. "If we go into a major battle this summer, it will be very hard to keep the United Nations in Bosnia into the next winter."

The UN announcement on air strikes struck a different note from that sounded last year by Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Rose, the former UN commander in Bosnia. He at first countenanced Nato attacks on Bosnian Serb targets but ended up believing they undermined the UN's neutrality and jeopardised peace-keeping operations.

His successor, Lieutenant-General Rupert Smith, has made it known that a firmer approach is in the offing. Colum Murphy, a UN spokesman in Sarajevo, said: "There is some change. If necessary, this commander is going to take very forceful action."

The announcement may have been prompted by the fact that Bosnian Serb forces have shelled four UN "safe areas" - Sarajevo, Bihac, Tuzla and Gorazde - in the past week. The UN acknowledges that Muslim-led Bosnian government forces sometimes provoke such incidents by using "safe areas" as bases to attack Serb targets.

The latest fighting appears to have brought Muslim gains in the Tuzla and Travnik areas of northern and central Bosnia. Bosnian Serb officers say the Muslim-led forces, under-armed at the start of the war in 1992, now have more weapons and ammunition.

The Contact Group, exploiting a rift between President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and the Bosnian Serb leadership, hopes to persuade Mr Milosevic to recognise Bosnia in its pre-war borders, increasing pressure on the Bosnian Serbs to accept a peace settlement. France's Foreign Minister, Alain Jupp, expressed optimism last week that this was possible, saying: "Mutual recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [Serbia and Montenegro] is a goal within our reach and should come about before the end of April."

Mutual recognition between Serbia and Croatia seems a more remote prospect, because Mr Milosevic says the status of the Serb-held part of Croatia known as the Krajina is unresolved. The Western powers and Russia have proposed that Croatian Serbs receive broad autonomy, but it appears that Mr Milosevic is holding out for more in Croatia - possibly including a revision of borders in Serbia's favour - than in Bosnia.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: £20000 - £25000 per annum + c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Sales Consultant - OTE £45,000

£15000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for an exci...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food