Vexed UN chief attempts to regain initiative

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The Independent Online
Under growing pressure to reassert his role in the former Yugoslavia, the United Nations Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, has summoned his three top envoys in the war zone back to New York for urgent consultations.

Deep divisions have opened inside UN headquarters over whether Mr Boutros- Ghali has erred in recent weeks in delegating his powers in Bosnia to his commanders in the field and in deferring to the United States and to Nato by publicly supporting the continuing bombing of Serb targets.

There were also signs yesterday of growing disquiet about the Nato campaign within the UN Security Council, even though an attempt by Russia to pass a resolution demanding a suspension of the bombing still failed to win support. "Many of us are beginning to get agitated," one member of the Council admitted. "We want to know when this will end."

Returning to New York for the discussions on Saturday will be General Bernard Janvier, the UN commander in the field, as well as Yasushi Akashi, the civil head of the UN mission in the former Yugoslavia, and Mr Boutros- Ghali's representative to the peace negotiations, Thorvald Stoltenberg.

The Secretary-General may reconsider his decision in July to relinquish to General Janvier his half of the "dual-key" arrangement under which the UN and Nato approve military action. "That arrangement may be reviewed," one source said.

In public statements, Mr Boutros-Ghali has until now supported the Nato bombardment. He has said nothing, however, since the launching earlier this week of cruise missiles from US warships in the Adriatic.

A European source noted that the allies, including Britain, were apparently not given notice by Washington before the missiles were fired.

Mr Boutros-Ghali has also been piqued that the UN has been essentially frozen out of the current peace initiative being led by President Bill Clinton's special envoy, Richard Holbrooke.

In an unusual snub to the UN, Mr Holbrooke refused to allow Mr Stoltenberg to take part in the talks that led to an initial peace agreement between the warring sides in Geneva last week.

A spokesman for Mr Boutros-Ghali denied there was any rift with Nato on the bombing campaign. "There is no difference of opinion ... on the overall policy being pursued," he said, adding that Saturday's meeting here would include an "overall review of the situation. They will discuss all options".

Mr Boutros-Ghali is meanwhile getting conflicting counsel from his senior advisers. One camp, led by the Under-Secretary-General for peace-keeping, Kofi Annan, believes the UN has been right in standing back in recent weeks from the Bosnian crisis. Political advisers to Mr Boutros-Ghali contend, however, that the UN needs to reinsert itself in the peace process.

Pressure on the Secretary-General to take a more muscular approach has also come from the Russian ambassador to the Security Council, Sergei Lavrov, who is believed to have demanded that the UN retrieve control of the military "key" from Gen Janvier.

Officials privately admit that Mr Lavrov may be right in asserting that Nato's campaign is in danger of going beyond what is authorised by existing Security Council resolutions on Bosnia. "The Russians have been saying that the Council has not authorised what has happened and this is something that the Secretary-General will have to reopen also," a source said.