Chirac gets tough with Serbs

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The Independent Online
President Jacques Chirac of France told his Serbian counterpart, Slobodan Milosevic, yesterday that French troops would be forced to "guarantee" safe passage on the Mount Igman route into Sarajevo if no agreement is reached with the Bosnian Serbs besieging the city, the Elysee Palace said.

The Serbs are unlikely to take this any more seriously than previous such threats - yesterday the Bosnian Serbs fired tank rounds at the Mount Igman road as the recently appointed European envoy in Bosnia, Karl Bildt, was being driven over it to Konjic in central Bosnia. There he had an even narrower escape, when three Serb shells landed between 50 and 100 yards from a helicopter waiting to fly him back to the Croatian port of Split.

Elsewhere, fighting calmed down after intense activity around the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia on Thursday, although UN observers reported 27 shells landing in the enclave early yesterday morning.

The UN has been finding it increasingly difficult to monitor events, as it has been denied access by both Bosnian and Croatian governments. Yesterday a UN spokesman in Sarajevo, Alexander Ivanko, criticised Bosnia for preventing the reporting of civilian casualties in the city, thus undercutting efforts to publicise its plight. The clampdown started when the Bosnian army (BiH) began what looked like a large-scale attempt to break into and out of the besieged city last month.

In neighbouring Croatia the Croatian army continued to threaten the Serb enclaves in eastern Slavonia and the southern Krajina, but diplomats believed a full-scale assault was unlikely because Croatia is anxious to maintain good relations with the European Union. However, the UN said they were "still massing", and the situation was "worrying".

n The US Air Force issued a statement yesterday in support of its pilot, Captain Scott O'Grady, shot down over Bosnia on 2 June. The Independent reported yesterday that Nato sources said he had made several mistakes which led to his being shot down and delayed his rescue. The Air Force did not deny specific aspects of the report, but said that as far as it was concerned he had still performed well.