Belgrade manoeuvres to keep seat at UN

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MILAN PANIC, Prime Minister of the rump Yugoslavia, proposed yesterday that the federation should make a fresh application for membership of the United Nations, as a way of removing the threat to expel it. Mr Panic made the suggestion in Moscow after talks with the Russian Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, and before flying back to Belgrade. He said Mr Kozyrev had supported the proposal.

Russia has until now been reluctant to move against Serbia. In New York, Russia's representative at the UN, Yuli Vorontsov, said Russia was keen not to burn all bridges with Belgrade and with the rump federation, which consists of Serbia and Montenegro. 'Unlike many others, we are not looking at unseating somebody. We are looking at the proper way of keeping Serbia, Montenegro here in the family of nations . . . In our eyes it's not unseating, it's just finding the proper procedure to keep them here.'

At Tuesday's opening session of the General Assembly the United States and the European Community objected to Yugoslavia's continuing presence at the UN. A vote is expected to be taken on the issue before the end of the week.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman in Moscow reiterated that the exclusion of Yugoslavia from the UN would be 'counter- productive'.

In Geneva, Lord Owen, co- chairman with Cyrus Vance of the UN-EC peace conference on Yugoslavia, insisted that the possible exclusion of Yugoslavia from the UN 'will not affect the conference - we are going to talk to all parties'.

Peace talks are due to start in Geneva tomorrow and look set to be attended by all parties, despite earlier indications both from the Bosnian government and from the Bosnian Serbs that they would not attend.

Meanwhile, a preliminary UN report on the downing of an Italian aid plane in Bosnia earlier this month confirmed that the aircraft was hit by a missile. The report said that the missile was easily transportable, probably infra-red guided and could have been an SA-9, an SA-16 or an improved Stinger.

But the report stopped short of identifying who was responsible for firing the missile. There has been widespread speculation that Croat forces in the area, west of Sarajevo, may have shot down the plane.

The airlift of aid into Sarajevo has been suspended since the aircraft was shot down: the four-man Italian crew was killed. But Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said she hoped the airlift could resume by the end of this week.

As fighting continued in Bosnia, pressure continued to grow for a 'no-fly' zone there. Sarajevo radio yesterday reported air strikes on Tuesday on the towns of Banovici, Zepa and Gorazde. But the US Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney, emphasised that no agreement had been reached on how to protect humanitarian aid flights without becoming involved in the civil war.

Speaking to Reuters news agency, he said: 'Is the purpose to facilitate the humanitarian flights into Sarajevo? Or is it to deny the Bosnian Serbs the ability to use their aircraft against the Muslim population? That is two very different purposes.'