Rose shrugs off Bosnian calls to resign military command

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The Independent Online
First Edition The UN commander in Bosnia, Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Rose, yesterday brushed off calls for his resignation from eight Bosnian parliamentary parties, which had accused him of pro-Serbian bias. The general said he was 'quite unmoved' by the criticism, adding that the Serbs accused him of favouring the Sarajevo government.

'Because I have to apply United Nations resolutions and agreements impartially, to some this means I am working for the other side,' he said.

'I remain quite unmoved by these arguments, as I get them from both sides, particularly the Serbian side, against whom I have had to use air power on three occasions.'

On Tuesday, Bosnian MPs and ministers accused the British general of seeking to 'water down' an international desire to punish the Serbs and of protecting 'the interests of his government'. The general, whose style is to ignore verbal flak fired in his direction, waited until yesterday before responding.

'He's not fazed by it,' said Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Spicer, a UN spokesman.

'He understands peace-keeping is a very difficult path to follow and he would expect that he would get criticism from both sides.'

Most recent attacks on General Rose have come from the Bosnian government, which is angry that the UN has highlighted its violation of a demilitarised zone while seeming to play down Serbian gun attacks on civilians in Sarajevo. Many expected General Rose, former head of the SAS, to have a more gung-ho attitude, but he says he will not risk Serbian retaliation against his troops.

'When he came here, he was a man of action,' said one UN official, who asked not to be identified. 'But he's learnt very quickly and he's now very sensitive to what his political masters want.'

This is anathema to those who want the world to intervene militarily, and who dislike Britain's refusal to lift the arms embargo on the Bosnian government. But many foreign observers of the conflict, who favour neither intervention nor an end to the arms ban, see scope for a more robust policy.

They argue that unless General Rose calls the Serbs' bluff by demanding total respect for agreements, the Bosnian Serbs will continue to to fire on 'safe areas', harass convoys and attack peacekeepers. Their view is that General Rose bullies the Bosnian government because he feels he can, and yields to the Bosnian Serbs because he feels he must.