US row with UN over new Balkan troop plan

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The Independent Online
An unusually public squabble has broken out at the United Nations following the release of proposals by the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, saying the organisation should not be involved in safeguarding the peace in the Eastern Slavonia region of Croatia.

Under a deal last month, the Serb-occupied enclave is to be returned to Croatian control in two years' time. In a report to the Security Council, Mr Boutros-Ghali suggested it should be policed by an 11,000-strong international mission rather than UN blue helmets.

The US ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright, effectively accused the Secretary-General of trying to duck his responsibilities. European diplomats also expressed dismay, though anonymously.

"I do not agree with the reservations expressed by the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, about such an operation," Mrs Albright said. "I believe it is a grave mistake for the Secretary-General to shy away from legitimate operations supported by key members of the Security Council."

The Eastern Slavonia deal was sealed by US diplomats at the same time the Dayton agreement on Bosnia, signed in Paris, was being negotiated. But feeling thoroughly bruised by the Yugoslav experience and with Nato now supplanting UN peace-keepers in Bosnia, Mr Boutros-Ghali is reluctant to commit himself to any further involvement in the region.

A spokesman for Mr Boutros-Ghali offered a frosty reply to Mrs Albright. "We regret the tone and contents of this statement," he said.

It remains highly likely, however, that the Security Council will ignore the Secretary-General's recommendations and approve a UN operation in the area involving fewer than 5,000 troops.

The Secretary-General had submitted a report in fulfilment of his responsibility to set out the considerations which the Security Council needed to bear in mind before taking decisions relating to the deployment of peace-keeping operations, the UN spokesman continued. "As the Secretary-General has pointed out on numerous occasions, the United Nations has not been given the capacity to mount, support and manage large and complex operations in the field which might require the use of force."

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