UN gives Nato right to down Serbian planes: Security Council endorses military action against aircraft violating no-fly zone over Bosnia

THE United Nations Security Council voted yesterday to allow Nato planes to shoot down aircraft violating its no-fly zone over Bosnia. The move, aimed at Serbian military aircraft, is the first step by the Council to try and force the Serbs to sign the UN and European Community-sponsored peace plan for the republic drawn up by Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance.

Fourteen of the Council's 15 members voted for the resolution. China abstained.

'The Council's vote will send a very clear message that it will not tolerate any violations of the no-fly zone,' said Sir David Hannay, the British ambassador to the UN. The UN has reported many violations by the Serbs of the Council's five-month- old flight ban.

The resolution will take effect after seven days, but Nato planes will only start operations after a further seven- day grace period. At the request of the Russians, the rules of engagement for the Nato planes will be confined to aerial combat in Bosnian airspace. They will not fire at targets on the ground, unless the fire is in self-defence. Further action by the Security Council is required for any change in the rules.

In addition yesterday, the Security Council discussed a draft resolution that would 'commend' the Vance- Owen peace plan for Bosnia in the form agreed by two of the parties, the Muslims and the Croats. It has been rejected so far by the Serbs.

The 30-point draft resolution - one of the longest ever produced by the Security Council - calls on the Serbs to sign the peace plan, promises that the Council will send a heavily armed force to implement the peace plan, and that it is ready to impose tighter sanctions if the Serbs do not sign within 15 days. A vote is not expected until the end of the week.

Welcoming yesterday's expected no-fly vote, Lord Owen said it was up to the Security Council 'to convince the Bosnian Serbs that there could be no exceptions to the peace plan'. However, both Lord Owen and Mr Vance were clearly disappointed that the draft resolution did not fully endorse the plan on which they have worked so hard over the past five months.

Among the proposed extra sanctions in the British draft resolution are: tightening financial sanctions, banning transport of all commodities across the land borders or to the ports of Yugoslavia, allowing only a strictly limited number of land crossing points into Yugoslavia, and intercepting and pursuing into Yugoslav territorial waters vessels in violation of sanctions.

In a related move yesterday, diplomats reported the Vance-Owen plan would shortly be known by another name. Mr Vance, who has been ill, is to retire from the negotiations, to be replaced by Thorvald Stoltenberg, Norway's former Foreign Minister.