Mitterrand's guarded Bastille tribute to Morillon

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PARIS (Reuter) - President Francois Mitterrand decorated General Philippe Morillon, the outgoing UN commander in Bosnia, with a rare honour yesterday but paid a guarded tribute to his work. Gen Morillon, whose high-profile effort to shield Bosnian Muslims from Serbian advances fell foul of some of France's top brass, was recalled this week, despite being hailed as a hero for his humanitarian work.

Decorating Gen Morillon at the Bastille Day military parade, Mr Mitterrand praised the image the general had projected but hinted he had not always performed in the way his superiors had expected. 'You must have found it difficult to understand what your duty was,' Mr Mitterrand said as he made Gen Morillon a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour. 'It is not so easy, while under the orders of the United Nations, to reconcile all the interests at stake.'

The President later said Europe 'does not have the means to act' to end the war, and the West could not be the world's 'gendarme'.

Gen Morillon became a media star when he moved in to Srebrenica in an effort to protect its civilian population from encroaching Serbian forces. But he became unpopular among the French general staff, who felt he was acting too much on his own without full regard for his military and political superiors.

Gen Morillon told reporters yesterday he had mixed feelings about coming back. 'I feel a bit torn,' he said, 'not because I left the action while it was still raging but because I received such moving tributes that, at the bottom of my heart, I feel that coming back here to Paris . . . well, it'll be tough.'