BELGRADE — AN oversight by the United Nations Security Council may result in a suspension next week of UN aid deliveries to hundreds of thousands of refugees in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the rump Yugoslav union of Serbia and Montenegro.
The snafu stems from the tightening last month of UN sanctions on Serbia and Montenegro as a means of pressuring them into persuading Bosnian Serb leaders to agree to the international peace plan for Bosnia.
Resolution 820 stiffened existing embargoes on trade and the export of petroleum to Serbia and Montenegro and a freeze on financial transactions, and banned the entry into the two Yugoslav republics of commercial vehicles. But the Council failed to include exemptions for humanitarian aid agencies, including its own.
The problems came to light May 10 when UNHCR officials went public apparently out of exasperation with UN bureaucracy.
Because of the oversight, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) operations here have been unable to obtain diesel fuel for trucks and funds transfers from abroad. UN officials say that because of the vehicle ban, at least 87 UN relief trucks bound for Belgrade have been stopped at the Austria-Hungary border and 14 at the Hungary-Yugoslav border.
Jose Maria Mendiluce, the UNHCR special envoy to former Yugoslavia, estimated that UNHCR operations here will run out of diesel on May 16, halting the convoys that deliver desperately needed food and medical supplies to more than 459,000 refugees scattered in rump Yugoslavia, and to tens of thousands of Muslim civilians trapped by Bosnian Serb forces in eastern Bosnia.
"UNHCR Belgrade fuel stocks will suffice only through May 16. After that date, all aid deliveries, including convoys to Muslim enclaves in eastern Bosnia, will cease if the fuel import problem is not resolved," said an internal UNHCR memoradum released by Mr. Mendiluce May 10.
The memorandum was highly critical of the implementation of Resolution 820, saying it was done "without consultation with the humanitarian aid agencies and without regard to transitional arrangements."
Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, said a quick solution was needed since it would take at least three days for new fuel supplies to reach Belgrade. He said the UNHCR had already opened talks with the UN committee that oversees the sanctions.
Mendiluce said the the oversight added new difficulties to those the UNHCR was already encountering. As part of an offensive launched May 9 against Bosnian Army forces in the southern city of Mostar, Bosnian Croat militiamen blocked supply routes running from southern Croatia into central Bosnia. Mendiluce said Bosnian Croats beat up 10 UNHCR truck drivers May 10 after firing on their vehicles.