UN deal reached on air strikes

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The Independent Online
The United Nations and Nato agreed on a faster response and multiple targets in air strikes in Bosnia as part of a tougher policy to safeguard UN peace-keepers and weapons exclusion zones, diplomats said.

Nato's North Atlantic Council is expected to approve the agreement today and envoys from Nato countries meeting in New York said they did not expect any difficulties on the accord, negotiated over the last two days.

The US believed that Nato's credibility was being eaten away by a series of 'pinprick' attacks against Serb targets that achieved nothing, and that its pilots were being needlessly put at risk.

Agreement was reached on three main issues: that there should be a faster response once a UN commander in Bosnia calls for an air strike, that there should be multiple targets for air strikes and that the warnings to those targeted should be reduced.

The US argues that a tougher stance on air strikes could help to reduce pressure from the US Congress to lift the arms embargo on the Bosnian Muslims. US policy, has accentuated more robust action by the alliance - interpreted to mean strategic stationary targets such as arms dumps and weapons factories and opening the flow of arms to the Muslims - has frequently run into conflict with that of its European allies, notably Britain and France. Though Britain and France both support tougher action at Nato, US officials say they oppose it through their UN commanders on the ground.

Both American and Nato officials underline that they do not want to dismantle the 'dual key' arrangement for authorising air strikes, but they do want to reduce the discretion of UN commanders over how such actions happen.

Conflict between Nato and the UN over Bosnia put a big question-mark over the alliance's future. It is on record as seeing crisis management and peace-keeping as one of its main tasks after the Cold War. It would do this under the umbrella of either the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe or the UN. But the record of efforts in Bosnia has been oe of constant frustration, conflict and misunderstanding between the two international bodies.

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