Bosnia: Support for more troops

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The Independent Online
The Independent proposed yesterday that at least 1,800 extra United Nations forces should be deployed in Bosnia in order to secure the coastal road along which humanitarian aid would reach Sarajevo and other besieged areas. To make the plan viable, these troops should be permitted to use force if necessary.

An overwhelming number of the readers who responded by yesterday evening supported the proposals; a selection of their letters is printed below.

The lives of more than 2 million people in central Bosnia, including several hundred thousand in Sarajevo, depend to a large extent on international humanitarian aid efforts. To be fully effective, however, these efforts require that Sarajevo airport and the so-called Mostar route from Croatia's southern Adriatic coast into central Bosnia be reopened.

In recent months, about 60 per cent of the Bosnian capital's needs have arrived by plane. About 17 flights a day touch down at Sarajevo airport, bringing an average of 10 tons each. Staff working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) say that 220 tons a day are needed to sustain the city's population.

Although more aid flights could provide part of the answer to Bosnia's plight, the most serious problem in the last two and a half months has been the closure of the main road that leads inland from the coast. The road passes through the southern city of Mostar and has been rendered impassable by fighting between Croatian and Muslim forces.

Sarajevo has been under Serbian siege since the war broke out in April 1992, but UN officials say the Serbian roadblocks around the city are not the main obstacle to aid operations.

'The problem is not the Serbian checkpoints, it is the road. What you need is a clear route to Sarajevo from Ploce (on the Croatian coast). When you have no control of the road all the way to the coast, you have no ability to predict the situation,' said one senior UN official.

Officers and soldiers with the UN forces in Bosnia believe that it is possible to reopen the Mostar road, but only if there is a clear readiness to use or threaten force against the combatants who are blocking it.

The Independent yesterday received more replies to its invitation to readers to express their views on Sarajevo than on any previous issue. Our view is that public opinion can drive foreign policy. Such messages should be 60 to 100 words long, explaining your view. You may use two special fax lines (071-415 1371 and 071-956 1739) or address letters to 40 City Road, London EC1 2DB, marking the envelope SARAJEVO.