Pentagon readying plans for Bosnia U.N. request would activate airspace patrol

December 22, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

The Pentagon has begun refining plans to use U.S. military power in the Balkans should the U.N. Security Council ask for allied help in enforcing the no-fly zone over Bosnia, according to U.S. officials.

Plans call for initial monitoring and enforcement operations by F-14 Tomcat fighters and F-A-18 Hornet attack bombers from the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy, with help from AWACS radar surveillance planes. At the same time, the Navy is considering the use of specially rigged Tomahawk cruise missiles to cripple Serbian-held airports in the region, should the Security Council decide to take that step during its deliberations.

American officials said the Tomahawks would be equipped with special-use warheads that would drop pellets of explosives along runways at airports being used for Serbian flights. The British used a similar tactic during the Persian Gulf War.

The disclosures came as the United States, Britain and France began laying the groundwork at the United Nations for the council's consideration later this week of a special resolution to enforce the no-fly zone.

Last weekend, President Bush and British Prime Minister John Major urged enforcement of the no-fly restrictions, which ostensibly prohibit flights of Serbian military aircraft over Bosnian airspace.

Diplomats said that representatives of four of the five permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France and Russia -- met yesterday to discuss the wording of an enforcement resolution. China, the fifth permanent member of the council, did not attend the session.

Although diplomats declined to say when the council might take up a resolution, Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger has said the move most likely would come soon, in time to push the resolution through before Christmas.

Western diplomats said the United States and its allies still are divided over two key issues -- how long a warning period to give the Serbs and how much leeway to give the military.

Reuters quoted NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner as repeating his call for intervention in Bosnia and saying he believed Serb forces could be disabled within 24 hours.

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