Air raids on villages in east Bosnia: UN says aircraft flew towards Serbia after dropping bombs

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The Independent Online
TWO villages in Eastern Bosnia have been bombed from the air in what the United Nations says is the first confirmed air attack on ground targets since the UN Security Council banned military flights in the republic last October.

UN personnel who witnessed the attack last weekend said the bombs were dropped on the villages of Gladovici and Osatica, five miles south-east of the Serbian-besieged Muslim town of Srebrenica. The UN Protection Force in Bosnia said it was unable to determine who was responsible for the attacks, but it left the impression that the aircraft were probably Serbian. It said in a statement that the planes had flown towards Serbia after dropping their bombs.

The raids were carried out by three single-engine, propeller-driven planes which may have been too small to inflict heavy damage but were in little danger of anti-aircraft fire from the lightly armed villagers of Eastern Bosnia. Bosnian radio alleged that Serbian aircraft had bombed the settlement of Konjevic Polje on Monday, killing 15 people. The attack near Srebrenica underlined the apparent toothlessness of the UN ban on military flights. Since October UN monitors have recorded 465 violations of the no-fly zone.

Serbs, Croats and Muslims alike have been guilty of ignoring the binding Security Council resolution. The Serbs have used helicopters to re-supply their forces in Northern Bosnia, and Croatian aircraft have been busy flying between Zagreb and Cazin near the besieged Muslim city of Bihac. At the same time the Muslims have undertaken helicopter missions from Tuzla, a Bosnian government stronghold in the north.

Last December the Bush administration was pressing hard for the Security Council to pass a second resolution that would permit the use of force to prevent military flights in Bosnia. It appeared to have won the support of Britain, France and Russia, but with Bill Clinton's arrival in the White House the proposal appears to have been dropped. Boris Yeltsin's government was particularly reluctant to back what would have been a largely anti-Serbian measure for fear of provoking a conservative backlash in Moscow.

Serbian commanders yesterday gave permission for three UN aid convoys to cross the Drina river from Serbia into Bosnia and deliver aid to Sarajevo, Gorazde and Tuzla. But a convoy destined for Srebrenica was marooned on the Serbian side of the border for the seventh successive day because of Serbian objections.

Peace negotiations yesterday reopened at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Western diplomats were hopeful that the plan proposed by Lord Owen and the former US secretary of state, Cyrus Vance - which has been accepted in its entirety only by the Croats - would be signed by the Serbs and the Muslims.

Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, and Mate Boban, the Croat leader, yesterday met Messrs Vance and Owen. Today the Muslim leader, Alija Izetbegovic, will join the talks. The Muslims are said to be close to agreeing the Vance-Owen peace map that would split Bosnia into 10 cantons with a loose central government.