Bush, Major seek air patrols over Bosnia

December 21, 1992|By Doyle McManus | Doyle McManus,Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- President Bush and British Prime Minister John Major announced yesterday that they will seek United Nations authority to send air patrols over Bosnia to stop Serbian military aircraft from flying there.

But officials added that they hope to deter the Serbs without shooting down planes or bombing Serbian airfields.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Major said that they also are working on new measures to prevent the fighting among the former republics of Yugoslavia from spreading into neighboring Macedonia and the Serbian province of Kosovo. The efforts would include an enlarged U.N. observer force and a warning to Serbia that attacks in those areas would draw severe sanctions.

In a statement issued at the White House after a weekend of meetings at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., Mr. Bush and Mr. Major said that they would join forces in the U.N. Security Council to win a resolution to enforce the "no-fly zone" over Bosnia.

"The aim of the resolution would be to prevent flights taking place other than those specifically authorized by the United Nations," the statement said.

The Security Council imposed a ban on military flights over Bosnia in a resolution approved Oct. 9, but it did not authorize any measures to enforce the ban.

Since then, U.S. and British officials said, Serbian aircraft have stopped bombing and strafing Bosnian and Croatian targets. But the Serbs have violated the ban with more than 200 airplane and helicopter flights over Bosnia, apparently ferrying military commanders and weaponry around the republic.

U.S. and British officials said that they envision enforcing the ban by putting warplanes from the United States and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries on patrol over Bosnia and hope to avoid actually shooting down any Serbian aircraft.

"Enforcement comes in different packages," a senior British official said. "You could have combat air patrols that would keep Serbia's small planes on the ground or force them down. You could, on the other end, shoot them down."

But, he added, Mr. Major believes that shooting the Serbian planes down is "not based on reality."

Both U.S. and British officials acknowledge that enforcing the ban will have little or no real effect on the conduct of the war. But they say that the issue is important "to show [Serbian leader Slobodan] Milosevic . . . that there is a limit to how far they [Serbian forces] can go," a senior British official said.

At the same time, officials said they worry that enforcing the ban by shooting down Serbian aircraft might prompt Serbian forces to retaliate by attacking the U.N. humanitarian aid convoys that are supplying Sarajevo and other Bosnian cities.

That kind of retaliation has been a special concern for Mr. Major because the U.N. force in Bosnia includes 2,400 British troops. But Mr. Bush and his aides said that issue worried them, too.

As a result, Mr. Bush and Mr. Major sought a compromise that would convey the Western powers' determination to enforce the ban without touching off a direct military confrontation between the United Nations and the Serbs.

U.S. and British officials said that they do not expect much difficulty in winning the Security Council's approval for a new resolution. "I think we will have [it] within a week or so at the longest," Acting Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger said.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Major also expressed concern that the fighting in Bosnia could expand into the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia or the province of Kosovo, a part of Serbia whose population is ethnically 90 percent Albanian.

Officials have warned that fighting in Macedonia or Kosovo could draw in neighboring countries, including Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, and thus turn a local conflict into a major European war.

"That clearly is a matter of immense importance in the future," Mr. Major said. "With that in mind, we both agreed that it would be wise to press for an early increase in the number of observers in Kosovo."

A British official said that Mr. Major wants to send U.N. troops to Kosovo in addition to the European civilian observers now there but that the issue is complicated by the fact that the United Nations recognizes Kosovo only as a province of Serbia.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.