Morillon to leave Bosnia, says Leotard

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GENERAL PHILIPPE Morillon, whose refusal to leave the besieged Bosnian town of Srebrenica last month earned him worldwide recognition, will probably leave his post as head of the UN Protection Force in Bosnia in the near future, Francois Leotard, the French Defence Minister, said yesterday.

The presence of General Morillon in Bosnia has become a political issue with Andre Glucksmann, a philosopher who has just returned from Sarajevo, saying that his withdrawal would be 'a bonus to improvised and organised terrorists'. Mr Glucksmann said the new conservative government was under pressure from President Francois Mitterrand to remove the general, a contention that Mr Leotard has denied.

Last week, as Mr Leotard was in Bosnia, Le Monde reported that the general was about to be withdrawn. This came after a spate of rumours that the French chiefs of staff were unhappy with his conduct. Such reports are unverifiable because of an officers' code which forbids negative public comment about colleagues.

A weekend statement by Mr Leotard left open the question of General Morillon's stay but, in a radio interview yesterday, the minister replied 'probably not' when asked if the general would still be in Bosnia next month. He said he would take a decision only after the chiefs of staff had asked for General Morillon to be moved.

Pointing out that the general had been in Bosnia for more than a year, compared with the usual six-month posting, Mr Leotard said that, when the time came, he would get a senior command in keeping with his rank and experience. General Morillon said in a television interview over the weekend that he wished to stay on.

In another comment, Alain Juppe, the Foreign Minister, said the issue had become part of a 'classic media trap'. 'We should not personalise the problem we face today too much,' he said. 'Beyond people, we should be worrying about the situation in ex-Yugoslavia.'