New Bosnia chief takes 'muscular' approach

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The Independent Online
THE new British commander of United Nations forces in Bosnia expects them to adopt a more 'muscular' approach, according to sources at UN headquarters in Kiseljak. His view mirrors that of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' chief, Larry Hollingworth, that it is time to 'get on or get out', and interprets the existing UN mandate more widely than some.

Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Rose, 53, a former commander of the SAS, arrived at Kiseljak yesterday. Asked if he would take a tougher stance than his predecessor, Lieutenant-General Francis Briquemont, he said: 'I can't predict. Our mission is to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, to secure the safe areas and to bring about peace in this country. I'm going to go around for the first week or two looking at how we're going to achieve this.'

But sources said he would expect his battalions - including his old regiment, the Coldstream Guards at Vitez - to operate more robustly, and to impose themselves on the countryside. Galvanising troops of several nations to take a more active, peace-keeping approach will be a great challenge, although the French and British governments appear to be in step on a more forthright approach.

General Rose has said he believes the UN mandate goes far enough and that he has enough troops to fulfil it. In his view, the mandate provides for securing safe areas, ending the siege of Sarajevo and restoring peace - a wider interpretation than some. 'My own view is that people's attitudes count more than anything else in this country,' the general said.

He would not be drawn on the question of a possible withdrawal. 'We are keeping thousands of people alive. If there had never been the UN Protection Force there would have been wholesale famine and death.' He added: 'Obviously no commitment we have is going to be open ended. There will come a time when the countries will look at whether the cost in financial terms and human terms justifies the result. Of course we can't stay here forever.'

As General Rose was speaking, news had broken of Bosnian army successes in attempting to break out of the Maglaj pocket to the south-east, with the reported recapture of Donji Mravici and Lijesnica. Far to the south, in the British area, there was a report of the hamlet of Here, on the main, British-controlled supply route, being razed to the ground. Here had been about 1km inside Bosnian army lines and near the Croat-held town of Prozor.

A UN military spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Bill Aikman, also said yesterday that a 'significant battle' erupted after Croat units surged out of Prozor towards government-held Jablanica on Monday.

General Rose denied that General Briquemont had left Bosnia a frustrated and broken man. 'A lot of nonsense has been talked about General Briquemont,' he said.

France yesterday proposed General Bertrand de Lapresle, commander of its Rapid Intervention Force, to take over as overall commander of the UN peace-keeping forces in former Yugoslavia.

The French Defence Minister, Francois Leotard, said he wanted General de Lapresle to replace General Jean Cot, who is to leave at the end of March after clashing publicly with UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

Bosnia appeal, page 13