UN threatens Croatia pull-out

The UN Secretary-General yesterday warned Croatia and its secessionist Krajina Serbs that the UN would be forced to withdraw its peace-keepers unless both parties allowed troops to implement a new mandate.

The world body has so far failed to win agreement from Zagreb and Knin over the terms of the new mission, but seems determined to press ahead regardless.

In a report to the Security Council last night, the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali wrote: "The proposed plan provides for a pragmatic implementation of [the new mandate] and the alternative to its adoption would be the withdrawal of UN forces and the resumption of war. If the two sides wish to avoid a renewal of the conflict, it is up to them to provide the necessary conditions for the new operation to discharge its responsibilities successfully."

The main point of contention is over monitoring Croatia's borders with Bosnia and Yugoslavia - or rather, of frontier areas where the Krajina Serbs are linked to the their allies in Bosnia and Serbia. Zagreb wanted the UN to control crossing points - that is, turn back military supplies destined for their enemies. The Krajina Serbs want only civilian monitors.

The UN will instead set up checkpoints at 25 to 30 crossing points and search vehicles for military equipment and personnel (at present it has 46 positions along the border). "In cases where military personnel, equipment, supplies and weapons are detected, [UN troops] will give notice that the crossing of such personnel and items would be in violation of Security Council resolutions and be reported to the UN Security Council," the report says.

Neither side will be happy with the task set for the UN Confidence Restoration Operation in Croatia (Uncro), but both will probably have to go along with it. Zagreb wants the UN to cut off arms to the Krajina Serbs, but that is a job the force is neither equipped nor mandated to do - particularly since its numbers are to be cut from 14,000 to fewer than 9,000.