US Airdrop Hits Target Amid Serbian Offensive
US Airdrop Hits Target Amid Serbian OffensiveSkip to next paragraph
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RELIEF parcels dropped by United States planes were reported yesterday to hit the mark in the besieged government enclave of Konjevic Polje, but Muslims in the area were struggling against a fierce Serbian offensive.
A ham radio operator in Konjevic Polje said the American aid landed right on target, with villagers wading through up to 20 inches of snow to collect 18 parcels. It was the third drop since the US operation began Sunday. The US government said yesterday the third airdrop might be the last for awhile; meanwhile, Russia said it would join the air relief effort.
Ham radio operators in the area said previous drops were considerably less successful. The initial drop targeted the Cerska region just hours before its hamlets were overrun by Bosnia's Serb rebels, who appeared to be answering the US government's pro-Muslim relief effort with a deliberate affront. The ham operator said refugees were fleeing the fighting in Cerska to Kojevic Polje, which is about 10 miles to the south.
British UN officials were negotiating with Bosnian Serbs to secure safe passage for about 4,000 refugees expected to leave Cerska shortly, according to a British Army spokesman in Croatia. In Belgrade, UN spokeswoman Lyndall Sachs said a convoy of 11 trucks had been sent toward Cerska to evacuate about 1,500 wounded. Bosnian Serbs have consistently refused to grant UN aid convoys access to Cerska, and there was no immediate word whether the latest would be allowed to pass.
Muslim forces in eastern Bosnia had made gains in an offensive that began in December. The Serb push against Cerska - one of four pockets of Muslim resistance in rugged terrain close to the Drina River border with Serbia - began two weeks ago before Washington announced its airdrop plans.
Russia's announcement that it planned to soon join the airdrop came Tuesday, but it remained unclear yesterday whether the Russians would focus their efforts on helping besieged Muslims, as the US government has done. President Boris Yeltsin has been sensitive to criticism from Russian hard-liners for supporting UN sanctions against the Serbs, Russia's traditional allies. Serbs Warn Montenegrins
Yugoslavia's federal parliament today approved a new Cabinet including several prominent allies of Serbia's hard-line president, Slobodan Milosevic. But the post of finance minister will remain vacant for now because of a disagreement between Serbia and Montenegro, the only republics left in Yugoslavia.
Premier Radoje Kontic gave lawmakers a gloomy report on Yugoslavia's economy, which has been weakened by UN sanctions imposed last May to punish Mr. Milosevic for fomenting war in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.
Those two republics, along with Slovenia and Macedonia, seceded from the Balkan federation in 1991. In a veiled warning to Montenegrin nationalists and to Serbia's Kosovo province, which is dominated by ethnic Albanians, Mr. Kontic said there could be no more secessions.
Serbia wants to control the Finance Ministry so it can continue its policy of printing money to finance wars in neighboring Croatia and Bosnia and curb growing social unrest at home. That has angered many Montenegrins, who feel unfairly targeted by the UN sanctions. Almost 60 percent of the Yugoslav workforce is idle, monthly inflation has topped 200 percent, and the gross national product is reported to have fallen 40 percent. UN Chief on Use of Force
United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali told a British newspaper he is personally ready to see that UN troops are authorized to use force to implement a peace settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In an interview published in The Times Wednesday, he said the move could be part of a more aggressive world role for the organization.
Mr. Boutros-Ghali was to meet with British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd in New York late yesterday. The UN now has close to 55,000 troops, police, and civilians currently serving, from El Salvador to Cyprus, at a cost of about $2 billion a year.