UN troops needed to back shaky truce

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO (Reuter) - A Muslim-Croat truce in Bosnia appeared extremely shaky yesterday, adding weight to a plea by the UN commander in the republic for more troops to back it up.

Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Rose said the ceasefire and efforts to negotiate a peace settlement could fail unless the West committed more forces. He said the warring sides were finally ready to turn the corner towards peace, adding that he wanted 3,000 to 5,000 more UN troops as quickly as possible to operate between Muslims and Croats along a front line of 350km (220 miles).

The UN, in a switch of policy, is to move its relief convoys through Bosnia under armed escort without negotiating their passage with the warring factions, a UN official said yesterday. The first convoy to move after simply giving notice is planned for today, from Metkovic on the border between Bosnia and Croatia, through Jablanica and Tarcin into Sarajevo.

UN officers reported low-level, but persistent ceasefire violations in a string of Muslim-Croat flashpoints since the truce went into effect on Friday. UN observers recorded bursts of small arms fire in the Vitez pocket and Mostar, artillery fire in the Bakovici area, and 40 explosions in the government- dominated Vares pocket. A UN duty officer in Zagreb accused the Croats of violating the ceasefire by combining forces with the Serbs in attacking Maglaj. And fierce Serb-Muslim fighting was reported in the northern town of Doboj and Bihac in the west.

Serbs yesterday withdrew from a Sava River bridge on the Croatian-Bosnian border where they had blockaded a UN peace-keeping post for over a week, a UN Protection Force spokesman said.