UN seeks 7,500 more soldiers: Gorazde pleads for deliverance from Serbian assaults as Boutros-Ghali recommends despatching fresh troops to protect 'safe areas'

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The Independent Online
MUSLIM defenders in the besieged town of Gorazde in eastern Bosnia appealed to the international community to save it from destruction yesterday, saying advancing Serbs were now only two miles from the town centre.

Their pleas may at last be heard in New York, where the United Nations has recommended the immediate dispatch of at least 7,500 additional peace-keepers, backed by air power, to guard civilians in Bosnia's six 'safe areas'. However, Boutros Boutros- Ghali, describing this plan as the 'light option', warned that 34,000 troops would be needed to properly protect the enclaves.

The Secretary-General's report follows a Security Council resolution calling for increased protection in the six havens. He said the 'light option' relied on 'the threat of air action against any belligerents'; its advantage was that the UN would be hard- pressed to recruit more than 7,400 extra soldiers. The plan assumed that all parties, including the Serbs, would co-operate.

But a ham radio report from Gorazde illustrated the present lack of co-operation between the Serbs and the UN, whose peace-keepers have been barred from the city by Bosnian Serb forces.

A city official, speaking on a ham radio network, yesterday said Serbian bombardments of the town had killed 66 people in the last 24 hours and wounded 200. 'Dozens of multiple rocket launchers are hitting the town, everything is burning and villages are being destroyed,' the radio report said. 'The people of Gorazde appeal to the Bosnian Presidency, the UN Security Council and General Philippe Morillon (commander of UN forces in Bosnia) to intervene and save Gorazde from disaster,' it added.

The offensive appears a deliberate challenge to the UN's authority by Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb commander. He told General Lars-Eric Wahlgren, the UN commander, he had no objection to the deployment of peace-keepers, but Serbian fighters continue to block the UN's access to the town. Taking a harder line, Bosnian Serbs set up a barricade in Sarajevo, blocking the road between airport and city. This halted transport of humanitarian relief to the city's 300,000 inhabitants.

In central Bosnia, Croats accused Muslims of breaking a UN-brokered ceasefire between the former allies, of razing Croatian villages and slaughtering Croatian civilians. Furious commanders said 12,000 Croats were fleeing to Croat-held areas. The UN confirmed Muslim forces were ethnically cleansing Croatian villages but said it had no evidence of killings. Croatian Radio claimed Muslims attacked the towns of Novi Travnik and Kraljeva Sutjeska. The UN reported intense fighting between Muslims and Croats on the road to Kiseljak, less than 20 miles from Sarajevo.

The attacks suggested the Muslims are stepping up an offensive against Croatian positions throughout central Bosnia, with a view to lifting the Serbian siege of Sarajevo.

With no end in sight to the Muslim-Croat fighting, the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, who was in Athens, called for Greece to sponsor a Serbo-Croat summit to end hostilities between the two nations. But Serbs holding Croatia's Krajina enclave shelled the Adriatic resort of Biograd yesterday, killing at least five people, the Croatian army said.

The fighting between Croats and Muslims heightened speculation that British UN forces in Vitez could be withdrawn from central Bosnia.

Warren Christopher, the US Secretary of State, yesterday supported a call by Mr Boutros-Ghali to reconvene the London Conference on Yugoslavia, apparently hoping this might enhance co-operation on the issue between the United States and the European Community.