Drive to rebuild Bosnia leaves UN in the cold

An entirely new structure for peace enforcement and the rebuilding of Bosnia has been established following the Peace Implementation Conference in London, which concluded on Saturday.

Although overshadowed by the drama of the two missing French pilots, the conference decided the framework for the international effort over the next 12 months.

The London meeting abolished the old International Conference on Former Yugoslavia, which operated under the United Nations in Geneva. The transition to a Peace Implementation Council marks the burial of the UN's political authority in the Balkans. The UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, was given a walk-on role at the London conference. But the UN secretariat will now digest this blow to its prestige, which signifies the end of the extravagant hopes reposed in the UN as an instrument of a new world order after the Cold War.

The UN will not be represented on a steering board of the Peace Implementation Council, which will be made up of the Group of Seven industrial countries (Britain, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan) together with Russia, the European Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

This broad spectrum of interests will be overseen by Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, who was named as High Representative by the London conference.

Mr Bildt will play a critical part in maintaining relations between the civilian operation and the Nato Peace Implementation Force, dealing with the Supreme Allied Commander-Europe, General George Joulwan of the US.

The first group of US Marines bound for Sarajevo landed yesterday. The 22 Marines flew in from Naples to join about 350 Nato soldiers who have landed across Bosnia in recent days to sort out headquarters and logistics for the 60,000 troops expected in coming weeks.

Mr Bildt said that one priority was to reassure the Serb inhabitants of Sarajevo whose suburbs are due to pass under government control.

"I have told the government of Bosnia to make statements and to take actions designed to help the confidence of the Serbs," he said.

He said he would establish a presence in the Serb suburbs through an international police force and humanitarian aid. A Human Rights Task Force will operate throughout Bosnia.

Elections across Bosnia are to take place within six to nine months. The London conference pledged full support for a mission of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which will prepare and conduct the elections.