Bonn split on enforcing no-fly zone

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The Independent Online
AS NATO agreed yesterday to enforce a UN no-fly zone over Bosnia, the German government side- stepped a decision on whether it would participate. The operation will mark the first time Nato has taken on a mission beyond its borders or into a war zone since the alliance was founded in 1949.

At an emergency meeting of the German cabinet yesterday Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democratic Union and its sister Christian Social Union, which have a majority in the government, both voted for participation. But the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), the junior party in the coalition, then signalled their intention to contest the decision in the Constitutional Court, Germany's highest legal authority.

Government spokesmen said, however, that, given the current constitutional restrictions on deploying German armed forces in missions out of the Nato area, they had no choice but to leave it to the court to decide. With Germans making up a third of Nato's 18 Awacs crews, clarity over their continued participation in surveillance missions over Bosnia became essential after the UN Security Council resolved on Wednesday that the no-fly zones are to be enforced.

Although there is no question of German fighter planes becoming involved, simple involvement in reconnaissance operations aimed at enforcement would, according to the FDP and the opposition Social Democrats, be going considerably further than allowed under the constitution.

Meanwhile, in the Bosnian town of Bileca, the parliament of the self- proclaimed Serb republic in Bosnia yesterday rejected a resolution allowing conditional acceptance of the Vance-Owen plan for Bosnia- Herzegovina. As the UN Security Council moved towards toughening sanctions on his Serbian patrons, the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, reportedly told the 'parliament' in Bileca that they had to choose either 'freedom and the control of their territory' or 'the international community's diktat'.

The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Vitaly Churkin, appeared before the assembly to urge the Serbs, who see Moscow as their most powerful supporter, to be much more flexible and constructive in the negotiations.

Serbia, called to account for its actions at the International Court of Justice in the Hague yesterday, denied any part in the war in Bosnia and said charges of genocide against it were groundless. 'We are not faced with state-to-state aggression but a civil war of immense proportions and intensity,' Ljubinko Zivkovic, the rump Yugoslavia's envoy in the Hague, told the court.

Yesterday the Romanian authorities detained barges from Ukraine and Hungary on suspicion of carrying iron ore up the Danube in defiance of sanctions.