The deadly perils of peace-keeping: Morillon threatens to pull out after Spanish officer is killed; Bosnia

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The Independent Online
THE United Nations peace-keeping effort in Bosnia looks increasingly doomed to failure. After a Spanish officer escorting an aid convoy was shot dead, General Philippe Morillon, the UN commander, threatenedto withdraw his troops because of increasing violence against the 'blue helmets'.

In an emotional appeal to Bosnians, Gen Morillon said that without a peace agreement, the republic would descend into 'total anarchy'. 'I implore these people to contact their local military and political leaders and urge them to put a stop to this madness,' he said. Otherwise 'this new escalation of violence . . . will lead to the total and inevitable destruction of your country'.

Lieutenant Jesus Aguilar Fernandez, a 27-year-old platoon commander, was killed when his patrol, which was escorting medical supplies to a hospital in a Muslim-held area of Mostar, came under intense fire near the Tito Bridge. The attack came from an area controlled by the HVO, the Croatian militia, said Commander Barry Frewer, spokesman for the UN forces in Bosnia.

Spanish forces returned fire but did not hit anyone. The death of Lt Aguilar, the third Spaniard to die in Bosnia, brings to 46 the number of UN troops killed in the former Yugoslavia.

It is not clear if Gen Morillon has the authority to withdraw his troops; peace-keeping policy has been set by the UN Security Council. It has passed a resolution to increase protection for UN troops guarding the 'safe areas', but is awaiting a report on how best to implement the resolution. The question now is how long the Security Council waits before it decides to speed up moves to protect its forces - or before member states decide to withdraw troops from Bosnia.

The British government was yesterday undecided whether its humanitarian effort should be strengthened to match the increased tension in Bosnia, or whether relief work is becoming too dangerous to justify a continuing British presence.

Ministers have declared themselves anxious to continue the relief work as long as it can be done without unnecessary risk to British troops. The Ministry of Defence was preparing at least two contingency plans; one would allow the deployment of more forces on the assumption that a beefed-up aid effort can continue. An alternative plan for the withdrawal of the current deployment was also being drawn up.

It was not clear if the attack in Mostar came in revenge for the shooting on Friday of two Croatian militiamen by British UN forces near Vitez, after they attacked a Muslim aid convoy heading for Tuzla. Part of the 'Convoy of Joy', a procession of 500 cars and lorries, continued its journey yesterday under British army escort, but looters forced some vehicles off the road.

British troops and European Community monitors were searching for the missing vehicles and their occupants; peace-keepers can account for only half the trucks. 'We have seen looting and some brutality where drivers have been removed from the convoy,' Commander Frewer said.

The situation in central and southern Bosnia has deteriorated in the past week, with soldiers of the UN Protection Force (Unprofor) facing increased aggression; British troops in particular are wary of possible reprisals from the HVO. Yesterday, the Britons fired on Croatian snipers who were shooting at their base in Vitez. A UN spokesman said the Croats were seen evacuating casualties after the incident.

'Unprofor is in a difficult position but we continue to operate to the best of our abilities within the terms of our mandate. If the warring parties want to make that difficult for us they can,' a UN official said. 'The UN is not in a position actively to engage them.' In the Jablanica area, north of Mostar, Croatian troops blocked traffic from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, whose spokeswoman in Geneva said the aid situation in central and eastern Bosnia had reached the 'worst case scenario'.

In Sarajevo, eight people at a funeral were killed when a Serbian shell struck the Muslim cemetery. Heavy shelling erupted in the capital last night and continuous firing could be heard in the distance. 'All defence lines of the Bosnian army around Sarajevo are being shelled,' the Muslim commander said.