France recalls UN general

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PARIS (AP) - France announced yesterday that General Jean Cot, the controversial UN commander in former Yugoslavia, would be recalled at the end of next month at the request of the United Nations Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

General Cot incurred Mr Boutros-Ghali's wrath this month for criticising his civilian superiors and saying that he - the key commander on the ground - should be able to call in Nato air strikes without getting prior approval from UN headquarters.

Mr Boutros-Ghali sent a cable of reprimand to General Cot after learning that these criticisms were aired by the General in an interview with Le Monde.

The French Defence Minister, Francois Leotard, said that Mr Boutros-Ghali had requested General Cot's recall during a brief visit to Paris last week. Mr Leotard said France would comply with Mr Boutros-Ghali's request if certain conditions were met. One of these is believed to be that General Cot's replacement is also French. France has the largest contingent in the peace-keeping force in Bosnia and Croatia.

General Cot, 59, has been dismayed by harassment and killings of UN troops in Bosnia and difficulties in carrying out their mission to help in the delivery of humanitarian aid and to protect 'safe areas'.

Mr Boutros-Ghali is opposed to UN officials and commanders airing their complaints about internal problems. UN diplomats said his cable to General Cot was very strong, criticising him for 'inappropriate' behaviour.

The UN commander in Bosnia, Lieutenant-General Francis Briquemont of Belgium, is leaving at the end of this month. He has often said he no longer bothered to read UN resolutions on Bosnia because he lacks the troops and resources to carry them out.

Hopes for progress in peace talks in Geneva faded yesterday as Bosnia's Serbs and Muslims accused each other of rejecting a European Union peace plan.