Thousands near death from starving, Bosnian official says Muslim group hears warning. Meanwhile, Serbs said to advance in heavy fighting.

June 18, 1992|By Boston Globe

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Tens of thousands of people are near death from starvation, and the Balkan war is in danger of spreading, the foreign minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina warns.

Speaking at a special session of the 47-nation Organization of Islamic Conference called because of growing alarm over the devastation of Bosnia's Muslim population, the minister, Haris Silajdzic, yesterday called for the U.N. Security Council to authorize the use of force to stop Serbian aggression in his country.

"The tragic paralysis of the international community can neither be excused nor explained," Mr. Silajdzic said, reporting that 6,000 to 10,000 people have died, 20,000 have been wounded and a million made refugees.

"Bosnia will remain a heavy burden on the world's conscience," he said.

More than 40,000 have died since heavy fighting began in other parts of the Balkan peninsula nearly a year ago.

In Bosnia yesterday, artillery, tanks, multiple-rocket launchers and mortars rained shells on the capital, Sarajevo, and several of its suburbs as Serbian forces surrounding the city reportedly made substantial territorial gains.

There was heavy shelling last night of the city's central Old Town area, with shells falling every two or three minutes.

The intense fighting started a day after the republics of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia announced a military alliance aimed at pushing Serbian forces out of Bosnia.

At the Islamic conference, representatives of numerous countries declared their support for Bosnia, saying the Balkan war represents an ideal opportunity for the diverse Islamic world to speak with a single, powerful voice on a clear-cut issue of common interest.

Muslims are the largest ethnic group in Bosnia, constituting about 45 percent of the population, and the nations where fighting is expected next -- Kosovo and Albania -- both have Muslim majorities.

It appeared last night that the delegates would stop short of the decisive action that Bosnian and Kosovan officials said is essential if disaster is to be avoided.

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