UN accuses Bosnia Muslims of shelling airport

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UNITED Nations investigators said yesterday that Muslim-led Bosnian government forces deliberately fired a mortar shell on Sarajevo airport last month. The accusation has serious implications for Western and UN policies in Bosnia, since it has been widely assumed that Bosnian- Serbian forces are largely responsible for attacks on the airport and civilian targets in Sarajevo, writes Tony Barber.

A UN spokesman, Lieutenant- Colonel Pierre Duclos, said that the mortar that hit Sarajevo airport on 18 August was made in Israel. 'The result of all our investigations show the shell clearly came from (Bosnian) government lines,' he said. Another UN official said: 'This was a direct and intentional targeting of the airport.'

The airport is an important route for the delivery of humanitarian aid supplies to Sarajevo, and at first sight it would seem implausible that the Muslims would deliberately attack it. But the Bosnian Serbs often allege that the Muslims launch cleverly contrived attacks that can later be blamed on the Serbs.

The UN investigators offered no explanation for the alleged Muslim mortar attack. But one possibility is that a Muslim military unit fired the mortar without authorisation from its superiors.

The Bosnian government forces have long been dissatisfied with the UN's behaviour in the war. They believe the UN, for all its impartiality, has tended in practice to favour the Bosnian Serbs by taking a mild line in its dealings with them.