Investigate Bosnia Aid

AN evident lack of fairness on the part of United Nations and European Community officials toward the besieged government of Bosnia has been disturbing. The visible evidence is clear - an arms embargo that leaves Bosnians defenseless and a diplomatic strategy to pressure President Alija Izetbegovic to divide and sign away his country. (So far, Mr. Izetbegovic has refused, arguing rightly that to sign would ratify Serb aggression, violate Helsinki accords, and allow mass murder to go unpunished.)

Yet many close to the Bosnian question say there is an entire level of policy and action that goes unseen, in which EC and UN negotiators take sides, act far outside their diplomatic mandate for fairness, and use wrongful means to force a settlement in Bosnia.

Such operations are often hard to prove. But reports from Bosnia have led Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole to look into one dimension of a hidden UN-EC policy: the manipulation and withholding of humanitarian aid for political purposes.

Citing a recent Monitor story, Senator Dole yesterday asked Charles Bowsher, head of the General Accounting Office, to conduct a full-scale investigation into misuse of humanitarian aid in Bosnia, and to find out what US officials know about misuse and what they have done about it.

The US is the largest contributor to the UN and has the largest bilateral aid program for Bosnia. Mr. Bowsher should take this task seriously. The GAO is requested to find out if EC mediator Lord Owen is conducting a policy violating ``congressional intent and legislative language.'' US aid is given based on need and cannot be used as a negotiating tool.

The push for a GAO investigation came after the Monitor story, published Oct. 8, asserted that French UN troops in the Bihac region of Bosnia, under the direction of Owen, supported and supplied the secessionist forces of Fikret Abdic, the multimillionare leader of Bihac, in an effort to undermine Izetbegovic. UN and EC officials told reporter Laura Pitter that the 18,000 French troops in Bihac, at Owen's request, built a secret pipeline of aid to Abdic's forces that gave them three times the amount of official UN aid for the entire region. If it is found that Owen funneled aid to Abdic, this alone is grounds for his removal.

The GAO can confirm reports that winter aid has been withheld ``to avoid giving the Bosnian government hope.'' Why is there no aid for Sarajevo? To not stockpile aid for a city of 380,000, which gets frigid enough to hold the Winter Olympics, is a scandal. America funds UN programs to help starving or freezing people, not to give political leverage to mediators.

Aid in black-marketeering needs investigation. Serb forces have demanded 33 percent of all aid; this winter they are demanding 50 percent. One State Department official told the Monitor, ``It's crazy. Serbian troops eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the American taxpayer.''

Finally, the GAO must determine if US cables and documents on aid have been improperly classified. This is of special importance; much of the GAO investigation hinges on reading cable traffic on Bosnia, that would normally not be classified. What have US officials known about aid deals and a hidden UN-EC policy? What have they done, or not done, about it?

The GAO should move speedily.

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