Cutting Off Belgrade

A UNITED Nations Security Council resolution to block shipping into Serbia or Montenegro is the first evidence that the West will enforce sanctions it placed on the rump Yugoslavia in May after Serb-led forces began a gruesome "ethnic cleansing" campaign in Bosnia.

How serious the West is about this strengthened embargo, which was too long in coming, will be evident by how quickly it is enforced. NATO agreed to take the job, and the Western European Union will probably join the effort. But action can easily be held up by haranguing over details: If a boat refuses to be boarded, is it then fired upon? If a ship is boarded and materials are found, is the ship to be turned back? Will the UN teams have authority to use force on the Danube in Romania and Bulgaria?

If the West is truly seized by the issue of Bosnia, these problems can be cut through immediately. The movement of goods and materials, most of which supply the Serb-Yugoslav Army in Croatia and Bosnia, should be stopped. All summer and fall the West threatened to tighten sanctions and talked loudly of Serb war crimes. But little happened. The sanctions were flouted. Gas, oil, raw materials, and replacement parts flowed freely into Serbia via the Danube through Romania, through ports on the Adriatic, and

by overland routes.

Meanwhile, the Serbs took 70 percent of Bosnia. Even if the embargo is enforced, the context of the UN sanctions is still terribly sad and tragic. Winter is setting in. Between 200,000 and 500,000, mostly Muslim Bosnians, are said to be in grave danger. The Croat-Muslim alliance is shaky. Moreover, while in New York and Brussels diplomats work out language for boarding ships, a new ethnic cleansing campaign has begun on the ground in three areas of Bosnia. Yet the West still refuses to help arm the ill-e quipped Bosnians. Some 1.5 million Muslims are refugees; relief efforts don't begin to match the scale of need.

The West must do more. In September, the UN voted to establish a no-fly zone in Bosnia. But it has not yet voted to enforce that zone, even though dozens of violations have been recorded. The West should enforce the no-fly, blockade the rump Yugoslavia on both the sea and land, help establish warm "safe zones" in Bosnia for displaced persons, and allow the Bosnian government to obtain weapons to help defend Bosnian men, women, and children.

Serb President Slobodan Milosevic will tell his people the West is persecuting Serbs. But where is the real persecution taking place? Sanctions are a moral requirement under these circumstances.

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