UN winds up pressure on Serbs

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO - The United Nations Secretary-General yesterday ordered his special envoy in former Yugoslavia, Yasushi Akashi, to use 'all available means' to roll back Serb military gains in the Bosnian Muslim enclave of Gorazde.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali issued the order after Bosnian Serbs used tanks and artillery to capture a key ridge overlooking central Gorazde on Friday during what was supposed to have been a 24-hour cooling-off period. His request followed nearly two weeks of Serb advances in the enclave, 55 kilometers (35 miles) south-east of Sarajevo.

It was unclear what effect the command would have because there are no peace-keeping troops in Gorazde, which is home to 65,000 people. But similar tough talk by Mr Boutros-Ghali preceded a Nato ultimatum in February that forced Serbs to pull back their heavy guns from Sarajevo or risk being bombed. Washington and Nato have also urged a speed- up of the planned deployment of hundreds of Ukrainian peace-keepers in Gorazde.

In Sarajevo, talks between Bosnian Serb and government military chiefs on a new ceasefire yielded no apparent progress. The UN commander in Bosnia, Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Rose, said he told the two sides to think over their options for 48 hours - suggesting that he had no immediate plans to call air strikes.

The government commander, General Rasim Delic, said on Bosnian radio that he 'accepted completely' a UN proposal for a 14-day truce 'which includes that the Serbs have to withdraw from the safe area of Gorazde'. The Bosnian Serb commander, General Ratko Mladic, rejected the proposal. 'We wanted in our agreement a permanent and complete cessation of hostilities,' he said. 'That was far more than what was offered by the other party.'

A UN Protection Force spokesman, Major Rob Annink, said Friday's advance put the Serbs atop a hill south of the Drina River 'in line of sight' of central Gorazde. The area, known as the Gradina heights, is just 4kms (2.5 miles) away from the town centre.

Though there was no shelling of the town on Friday, Major Annink said 'a number of villages were seen burning' in outlying areas. Mr Boutros- Ghali issued his order after meeting Mr Akashi in Geneva. Mr Boutros-Ghali's spokeswoman, Therese Gastaut, said he called for 'a return by the parties, especially the Bosnian Serbs, to the positions they held (on 28 March) before the outbreak of the recent fighting'. Ms Gastaut said Mr Boutros-Ghali instructed UN forces 'to use all available means as authorised by the relevant Security Council resolutions to attain this objective'.

'We don't exclude any means, and air strikes are included in those Security Council resolutions,' she said.