Serbs expelled almost 800,000 Muslims

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The Independent Online
BOSNIAN Serb forces, who control about 70 per cent of Bosnia have succeeded in ridding that area of nine out of every 10 Muslims and Croats who lived there before the war broke out in April 1992, a United Nations refugee spokesman said yesterday. The estimates indicate that the Bosnian war has resulted in the largest forced population movement in Europe since the resettlements of Germans and others after the Second World War.

The figures, presented in Geneva by Ron Redmond of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), represent the most authoritative summary yet of the effects of Bosnian Serb 'ethnic cleansing' of non-Serbs. They illustrate in stark detail the way in which 29 months of war have torn apart the delicate multi-national patterns of pre-war Bosnian communities.

Out of 837,000 non-Serbs who lived in areas now under Bosnian Serb control, only 80,000 remain, Mr Redmond said. Most of those who have fled, or who have been deliberately expelled from their homes, are Muslims.

'Hundreds of thousands of them, probably most, are victims of so-called ethnic cleansing,' Mr Redmond said. 'While there have been some abuses against Serbs in Muslim and Croat areas, they do not compare in scope with what we have seen happen in Serb-held areas against minorities.'

Bosnia's Muslims made up about 44 per cent, or 1.92 million, of the republic's pre-war population of about 4.37 million. Bosnian Serb expulsions of Muslims have gathered pace since mid-July, and almost 10,000 people have been driven out of Serb-held areas in the last two months.

United Nations commanders warned Bosnian Serbs to remove their big guns from a UN no-weapons zone around Sarajevo today or face the threat of Nato air attack. 'They were encouraged to believe there would be very unpleasant consequences if the weapons weren't removed by midnight,' a UN source said.

In Brussels, Nato has written to United Nations headquarters in New York asking the UN to explain why it is resisting air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs, despite clear violations of UN Security Council resolutions. The incident is the latest sign of a rift between the two organisations, often at loggerheads since Nato became involved in Bosnia. Though officials and diplomats tried to play down the suggestion of a conflict, there is clearly a great deal of unhappiness inside Nato about relations with the UN. The US and France have pressed for Nato to police the heavy weapons exclusion zones around Sarajevo and Gorazde more strictly.

At a meeting of alliance ambassadors last week, Britain and all other 15 member states underlined their support for moves to toughen Nato's stance. But the UN Protection Force military commanders in Bosnia have resisted taking action, saying that this would be counter-productive.

A letter has now been sent from Sergio Balanzino, the acting Secretary General of Nato, to the UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros- Ghali, urging the UN to take a more robust attitude. The Clinton administration believes tougher action may help to fend off pressure in Congress to lift the UN arms embargo on the Muslims.

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