UN Watches Impact Of Sanctions on Serbia

DESPITE early violations of the latest cease-fire in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the United Nations Security Council is in a wait-and-see mode.

UN members are watching to see if the Council's new economic sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro will moderate Belgrade's aggressive behavior.

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic defiantly insists that the sanctions will not influence his policies and says that he has no control over Serbian forces in Bosnia. Yet his provision of air support and other aid to Serbian troops in Bosnia, as well as his steady calls for a Greater Serbia, are viewed by the Council as a decisive influence in the continued bloody fighting in Bosnia.

The Council's new sanctions, like those imposed on Iraq, were passed under UN Charter Chapter 7, which deals with acts of aggression. Bosnia, which declared its independence from Yugoslavia in February, became a member of the UN May 22.

The sweeping new curbs against the Belgrade government exempted food and medicine but clamped down on everything from trade to airline service and included a freeze of financial assets abroad. An oil embargo and ban on most sports and cultural contacts were included.

Compliance with the sanctions is mandatory for all UN members. Some nations wanted to approach the sanctions in a gentler two-phase process but in the end the Council voted 13 to 0 (with China and Zimbabwe abstaining) to adopt them all at once.

"Basically most members agreed that the Council should have acted several weeks ago - that it was already almost too late," says a European diplomat.

The Council is looking for a change in attitude from Belgrade.

"Sanctions often have a political impact long before they have an economic impact," notes one Western diplomat, "so the Council will be watching to see what effect sanctions have on the political mind-set in Belgrade and if it is ready to do what we know it can do to reduce or end the fighting in Bosnia. The question is how long the Council will wait."

Such options as a naval blockade against Adriatic ports and closing of Bosnian airspace to Serbian planes are possible under Chapter 7 and have been a topic of informal discussion.

Rumors have been strong, particularly in Serbia and Montenegro, that foreign military intervention could come next. Though the United States and Britain have not ruled it out, diplomats here play down the prospect of any such move in the near future.

"But people really are waiting to see whether the cease-fire holds and what happens on the ground," insists a US diplomat.

The Council has asked for a progress report from UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali by June 15. But a strong upsurge in fighting before that date or a sharp deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Bosnia could prod the Council to intervene sooner.

Muhamed Sacirbey, Bosnia-Herzegovina's Ambassador-designate to the UN, said the humanitarian situation in his country was desperate and that it should not be "held hostage" to the outcome of negotiations or sanctions. "It is unreasonable to expect that people in bunkers, shelters, and ruins can wait to run out of food and water until the population of Serbia and Montenegro runs out of gasoline.... I implore the Security Council to act."

Negotiations among warring parties to try to reopen the airport in Bosnia's capital of Sarajevo began under UN supervision June 2. The latest Security Council resolution, adopted May 30, calls for a new security zone that includes the city and the airport.

How the UN ultimately handles the problem of protecting relief supplies in Bosnia may further stretch the expanding definition of peacekeeping.

In a recent report to the Council on the feasibility of using UN peacekeeping troops to reopen the Sarajevo airport, Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali says that if there is no agreement among the factions to give safe passage to emergency aid, armed protection may have to be considered.

Such protection can be difficult and costly, and could make it harder for UN peacekeeping operations in Croatia, he said.

Two options - using UN troops to clear a route in advance of a convoy and then to escort it or to secure the hills surrounding Sarajevo - are both "potential combat operations," concedes UN spokesman Francois Giuiliani.

Although Boutros-Ghali makes no recommendation on options in Bosnia, he has urged in Somalia that 500 UN military troops escort relief supplies. Negotiations there are in progress.

"It's no departure for the UN to arm its peacekeepers with something beyond sidearms - it's just pushing the boundaries of what the troops have done in the past," says one Western diplomat. Protecting supplies, he concedes, is a broadening of the usual definition of self-defense.

"If the UN is going to take a more active role, it's going to have to move more in the direction of peace enforcement," observes a European diplomat.

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