Saving Sarajevo: Security Council: The battle to find extra troops for vital road link

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The Independent Online
WITH no more than a nod from the United Nations Security Council, the UN could deploy extra forces to secure the vital road link from Mostar to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. But it would require a firm offer from one or more member states to provide the troops. The problem would be finding a government politically acceptable to UN members which could do the job in the time required. As time runs out to save Sarajevo, the only states capable of providing sufficient troops fast enough are the big Western powers.

The authority for UN troops to use force to ensure the delivery of humanitarian supplies was given almost a year ago when the UN Security Council passed Resolution 770. Paragraph 2 called on states 'to take all measures necessary' to deliver humanitarian aid to Sarajevo, and wherever needed to other parts of Bosnia.

How difficult it is for the UN to find more troops for any of its trouble spots was well illustrated by the recent UN effort to secure so-called 'safe areas' in Bosnia. In May this year, faced with the continuing advance of the Serbian forces against Sarajevo and other Muslim-dominated towns, the Security Council passed Resolution 836 setting up 'safe areas' in six towns, including Sarajevo.

The Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, recommended 7,500 extra troops and the Security Council approved his plan, but the problem has been finding the troops. UN military procurement is constrained by the political and military considerations of the more powerful members of the Council, and none of the new troops will be ready to take up positions for several weeks at the earliest.

Several Islamic and non-aligned nations offered troops - even more than the Secretary-General proposed - because they felt the 'safe areas' should be enlarged. Among these nations were Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Jordan, Turkey and Iran. But troops from Iran and the Palestine Liberation Organisation were ruled out by Western powers, and some of the others were rejected by units already in Bosnia - including from Britain and France - on the grounds that their training or equipment was inadequate. The only new troops so far accepted, and then only in principle, are from Pakistan. But even these troops would be required to use German personnel carriers on which they would have to undergo training before they were deployed. Hence the frustrations and the delays.

Stuck with limited resources, the UN has scrambled to deliver what supplies it could, but hopelessly under-equipped to carry out Resolution 770, it has been frequently and relatively easily blocked by even a handful of Serb or Croat gunmen sniping from the roadside. In addition, the convoys have always been vulnerable to harassment by artillery barrages. The Security Council has been confined to issuing empty condemnations of the Serbian advance, or of 'ethnic cleansing'.