UN Awaits Serbian Vote To Press `No Fly' Zone


PRESSURE appears to be growing for the United Nations Security Council to act to enforce the "no fly" zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina. As diplomats await the results of the presidential election in Serbia, US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said the US and Britain had worked out an agreement to support the tougher action. British Prime Minister John Major met with President Bush at Camp David Dec. 19-20.

Britain has some 2,400 troops on the ground as part of a UN peacekeeping force escorting humanitarian aid convoys, and has been reluctant to support the enforcement move, which might endanger them.

The UN General Assembly passed a nonbinding resolution Dec. 18 urging the Council to consider both enforcement of the no-fly zone and a partial lifting of the arms embargo on Bosnia. Diplomats said they wanted to wait until after the Dec. 20 election in Serbia, however, before actually taking action in the Security Council. Hard-line Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is being challenged in the vote by Prime Minister Milan Panic, who has pledged to end the war.

"The UN is probably exercising good political judgment in waiting. They do not know the political results if they do something before the election," says Jack Buechner, president of the International Republican Institute, which is monitoring the Serbian vote. Official election results are not expected for several days.

On Dec. 18, UN special envoy Cyrus Vance asked President Bush to give the peacemaking effort more time. He warned that denying airspace to the Bosnian Serbs presents "a very great danger." Mr. Vance is particularly concerned about the safety of 23,000 UN peacekeepers now in Bosnia and Croatia.

If incumbent President Milosevic, a militant nationalist, wins reelection, the Council is likely to take up a resolution to enforce the no-fly zone. One UN diplomat says there is now a will to move on the issue.

Since the ban was declared by the Council on Oct. 9, there have been more than 220 violations, mainly by helicopters ferrying wounded and troops. The Council appears less likely to remove the ban on selling arms to Bosnia, however. "The Europeans are not ready for that step yet," the diplomat says.

If Mr. Panic wins, UN diplomats say they believe the Council might defer action. But Mr. Buechner says it is still not clear that the Serbian military would allow a peaceful transition. "I haven't seen any statements that indicate a willingness by Milosevic to go gracefully into the sunset," he says.

The Security Council recently also passed a resolution demanding that Serbia close all detention camps for women, particularly Muslim women. There have been widespread reports that thousands of women have been raped in the camps. In a press conference last week, Croatian Vice President Mate Granic reported that thousands of Bosnian refugees in camps in Croatia were pregnant as a result of rape.

The UN also voiced a strong protest Dec. 18 over Israel's deportation of more than 400 alleged Palestinian extremists. The members of the Security Council, including the United States, strongly rebuked Israel and demanded the immediate return of the Palestinians.

Lebanon has refused entry to the Palestinians, who are now in a small no-man's land between the two countries.

The US at the same time also condemned the rising tide of violence aimed at Israelis. President-elect Clinton also attacked the expulsions but tempered his statement by expressing his understanding of Israeli's security concerns.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.