Bosnian Serbs Comply, NATO Airstrikes Averted

THE UN said after a NATO airstrike deadline expired yesterday that Bosnian Serbs had withdrawn all their heavy weapons from an exclusion zone around Gorazde apart from some which had broken down. Yashushi Akashi, the UN envoy to the former Yugoslavia, announced shortly after the 2:01 a.m. (local time) deadline there would be no airstrikes. A NATO spokesman in Brussels said there was evidence the Serbs had complied but warned: ``A robust reconnaissance will be carried out jointly by the NATO and UN military commanders to ensure that compliance is total.''

Mr. Akashi says a commitment to neutrality kept him from doing more to stop Serbs attacking Gorazde. The Muslim-led Bosnian government fumed that while 700 people died, the Japanese diplomat hindered NATO military action to stop the Serbs. Serbs charged that two NATO bombing attacks proved the UN had sided with the Muslims. NATO, which issued an ultimatum for the Serbs to pull back from Gorazde, was reportedly angered after it sought, but didn't receive, authorization Saturday from Akashi for more airstrikes.

And Madeleine Albright, US ambassador to the UN, has lashed out at the UN special envoy in the Balkans after a weekend of extraordinary criticism against the world body from NATO, led mainly by the US.

Ms. Albright's private protests apparently elicited apologies from UN officials. But once she went public, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali defended Akashi. Albright had responded to remarks by Akashi in a New York Times article in which he criticized US policy as ``somewhat reticent, somewhat afraid, timid, and tentative.'' Christopher plugs sanctions on Iraq

UNITED States Secretary of Sate Warren Christopher assured Arab Gulf states yesterday that the Clinton administration would fight efforts in the United Nations Security Council to lift a trade embargo against Iraq.

This was welcome news to Saudi Arabia and its five allies, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain, which consider Saddam Hussein a threat.

But Mr. Christopher may have trouble delivering. China, Russia, and France are lined up to try to lift, or at least ease, the sanctions that were imposed after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The issue will come before the Security Council in mid-May.

Christopher had meetings in Saudi Arabia with King Fahd and Prince Saud, the foreign minister, in which he made the customary US pitch for lifting the Arab economic boycott of Israel.

But he was told that the Saudis and the other Gulf states would have to wait for joint action with other members of the 22-nation Arab League. Russia won't sell weapons to Syria

RUSSIA will not sell advanced weaponry to Syria, but plans to supply Damascus with spare parts for its Soviet-era arsenal, the Interfax news agency reported yesterday.

Israeli officials said this week that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who wrapped up a four-day visit to Russia yesterday, had received assurances from Russian leaders that Moscow would not sell any new weapons to Syria. But Interfax quoted unnamed sources as saying the assurances did not apply to old technology.

In Damascus, a Russian delegation led by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets also was discussing military cooperation with Syria yesterday. The two countries were expected to discuss new contracts for spare parts, but the talks were said to be difficult. Russia claims Syria already owes Moscow $10 billion, mainly for weapons bought during the 1970s and `80s.

According to Interfax, Mr. Soskovets also planned to discuss prospects for Middle East peace and Russia's role in the Arab-Israeli negotiations, which Moscow is now seeking to expand.

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