BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Balkan warlords have stonewalle one of the largest U.N. peacekeeping efforts in history and the world organization's troops are being maimed in record numbers because they are deployed "with both hands tied behind their backs," the U.N. mission commander complained yesterday.
Affronts to the U.N. mission include a demand this week by Serbian gunmen in eastern Croatia for the peacekeepers to pay "road-use taxes" if they wanted to patrol Serb-held areas.
The soldiers have also been ordered to move out of their hotel rooms and barracks, and their bases have been threatened with a cutoff of water and electricity.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, where only Serbian forces have aircraft, there have been more than 100 violations of a U.N. "no-fly" order in the last month, and the rebels continue to block deployment of a Canadian U.N. contingent into the tense area around Banja Luka.
This week, an airborne plane carrying the U.N. mission's deputy commander took eight bullets in its fuselage; a Danish soldier was kidnapped in a Croat-held area of Bosnia; Serbian civilians halted another aid convoy en route to the besieged Muslim city of Srebrenica, and U.N. observers recorded 1,304 rounds of artillery fired at monitored positions in Sarajevo in a 24-hour period.
Of the shells fired in violation of several cease-fires and U.N.-brokered agreements, 1,284 were lobbed at Bosnian government positions, presumably by rebel Serbs, and 20 were targeted at Serbian units, presumably by Muslim-led government forces, U.N. sources said.
"The developments of the last few days have caused doubts among even the most optimistic of my colleagues about the parties' seriousness in seeking resolution of the conflict in this region," Gen. Satish Nambiar, the U.N. mission commander, told reporters in an unusually frank news conference.
Nambiar would not say what recommendations he has made to the U.N. headquarters in New York to salvage the effort to bring peace to the shattered Balkans. But he exuded frustration, and at times emotion, while airing the list of obstacles that the warring factions have thrown in his path.
The Indian general described as "deliberate" the attack Thursday on a U.N. plane carrying Maj. Gen. Philippe Morillon of France and said he was suspending all further humanitarian relief flights into Sarajevo "until we are able to find some kind of credible assurances that our aircraft will not be targeted."
General Nambiar became emotional when discussing the 310 injuries, 20 of them fatal, inflicted on his troops in the eight months that they have been deployed in conflict regions of the former Yugoslav republics.
"These young boys are here without the normal tools of warfare because they are here to keep peace," he said, hinting at disagreement with the limits on his soldiers.
Croats have been expressing anger and impatience with the U.N. peacekeeping effort for months, complaining that the troops' unwillingness to challenge Serbian rebels flouting U.N. authority has effectively conceded victory to the aggressors.
Bosnian Muslims also hold the U.N. mission in general contempt for failing to deter the brutal, continuing Serbian land grab that has flushed 2 million people from their homes and killed tens of thousands, mostly Muslim civilians.
Despite the severe setbacks encountered by the U.N. troops, who now number more than 23,000 in Croatia and Bosnia, General Nambiar said he would not advocate withdrawal of the peacekeeping force.
"This is not an option we have suggested," he said. "This is not an answer to the problems of this region. If anything, it would cause a renewal of the conflict."