UN troops fail to impress Croats in besieged town

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The Independent Online
The Croatian militiaman at the checkpoint outside Travnik saw General Sir Peter Inge's little convoy of Land Rovers approaching through the dusk. 'The UN are all bunched up back down at Kiseljak,' he grunted in disgust as he sat with his fellow gunmen round their fire, swigging brandy from the bottle. 'They should send their men down to the front line.'

'We did something good in Travnik today,' the militiaman went on, ignoring the General as he wandered into the road. 'We went after the mujahedin, the Muslim guerrillas . . . You can't trust those people.' He flipped his hand towards the General's convoy 'They can go through - but they won't do anything.'

It was the same old story. The Croats of Bosnia were more suspicious of their Muslim comrades than their Serb enemies, even though the Serbs are now 500 yards beyond Turbe, the first town after Travnik, and Travnik is about to become the front line.

Which was why Sir Peter took a brief tour of the town and its shell- damaged buildings. An escort of Warrior armoured vehicles huddled round the Land Rover as they moved through the streets of the old Turkish city. A few inebriated young men watched the British convoy. Two horse-drawn, medieval carts rumbled past the Warriors, their drivers not even taking their eyes off the reins.

The people of Travnik, trapped in their valley below the mountains, have more on their minds than British generals just now. They long ago gave up on the UN. The British contingent in Bosnia may prove the exception to the rule - Bosnian forces have yet to comprehend the difference between British armour and the impotent UN unit in Sarajevo - but the locals know what they want.

'Why don't you let us have guns?' an 18-year-old Croat complained to the Cheshires' regimental sergeant-major. 'We don't ask for your help - but give us weapons to fight the Serbian aggression.'

Or to fight fellow Muslims, just like the Muslims whom the Croats were killing in Vitez only three weeks ago. No wonder the UN do not send their troops down to the front line.

LONDON - Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of State for Defence, attacked the 'waste of military resources' in enforcing the naval blockade against Serbia and Montenegro, agencies report. Vessels under the command of Nato are engaged in the same Adriatic operation as ships under the command of the 10-nation Western European Union.