UN Stiffens Resolve on Bosnia

Security Council resolution would tighten sanctions, study plan for safe havens

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

THE United Nations Security Council is expected to vote today to tighten economic sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro along both sea and land routes as part of its efforts to halt the fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The resolution - which also calls for UN observers on Bosnia's borders and requests a study of the feasibility of safe havens inside that country - caps a two-day special Council session on the UN's response to the Yugoslav crisis.

Against the backdrop of a shaky cease-fire, the comprehensive new resolution repeats several past demands and includes pointed reminders - at the request of Islamic governments - of the importance of territorial integrity and world disdain for "ethnic cleansing." Several Islamic nations urge more-forceful action.

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As if anticipating the resolution, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic wrote to Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali Friday to urge what he termed a more evenhanded approach as a way to end the war more quickly: "Continuous pressure on the Serbs cannot yield results without the same pressure on Croats and Muslims."

The resolution threatens to take action against any nation, particularly Croatia, that does not withdraw, disband, or disarm its forces inside Bosnia.

Bosnian authorities, meanwhile, have requested the help of British troops from the UN Protection Force to evacuate several throusand civilians caught in Serbian artillery fire in northern Bosnia.

The new resolution asks the secretary-general to make plans to place UN observers along Bosnia's borders to deter the flow of arms, personnel, and embargoed supplies. To tighten sanctions, it urges nations along the Danube River and Adriatic Sea to search ships headed for Serbia or Montenegro for embargoed goods such as oil, and ships headed to any former Yugoslav republic for arms.

"The sanctions must be made to bite," Lord Owen, the European Community's mediator, told the packed special session Friday. Lord Owen is co-chairman, along with UN Special Envoy Cyrus Vance, of the Geneva-based International Conference on the former Yugoslavia.

Conceding that sanctions are a blunt and imperfect instrument, Lord Owen said they are "the only peaceful weapon the world has." Belgrade still has considerable influence on Bosnian Serb attitudes and must use that positively, he said, if the sanctions are to be lifted.

Just back from a 10-day trip to Serbia and Montenegro, Janusz Bugajski, an Eastern European specialist with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, says he saw widespread evidence of embargo violations.

"Just about everything is getting in through the borders or along the Danube," he says. He urges UN support for the newly united political opposition against Serb nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic and for sanctions against strategic supplies that perpetuate his hold on power.

"Sooner or later there's going to be widespread economic paralysis [in Serbia]," Mr. Bugajski says. "Something's going to snap. It's a question of helping that process along and making sure it's as peaceful as possible."

Striking a high moral tone in his remarks to the Council, Mr. Vance stressed that the world community will not tolerate further harassment of UN troops or obstruction of relief supplies to needy Bosnians.

One problem that continues to perplex Council members is how to convince the Serbs that the 70 percent of Bosnian land they now control is not theirs. Bosnian Serbs recently got their proposal for three ethnic states in loose confederation included as a talking point in the Geneva negotiations. UN officials say the plan is unacceptable, but that keeping the Serbs at the table was key.

The main UN proposal at the Geneva talks calls for a Bosnia of seven to 10 highly autonomous provinces with borders drawn based on a number of factors, including ethnicity.

Meanwhile, Islamic nations want the UN to lift the arms embargo for Bosnia and to take much more forceful action. Turkey's ambassador to the UN, Mustafa Aksin, called the Council's efforts to date "piecemeal and half-hearted."

The question of trust and confidence in the UN is on the line, said Razali Ismail, Malaysia's UN ambassador. He added that the Council should impose additional sanctions in areas of Bosnia and Croatia under Serb control.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata said that the situation in Bosnia is an "unacceptable nightmare." She has urged the world community to make a larger effort to help those in detention camps.

Lord Owen terms such expressions "welcome pressure" in helping Bosnian Serbs realize that "the international community is not going to let this issue go."

Still, many UN members able to supply troops are reluctant to intervene militarily. Most members who have spoken to the Council so far have stressed the importance of UN action already taken. Their comments reflect a remarkable degree of unity.

China's ambassador to the UN, Li Daoyu, for instance, usually the first to object to any Security Council move that might intrude on a nation's sovereignty, urged an immediate halt to all violations of international humanitarian law. He said dialogue, not force, is the only way to settle a dispute.

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