Bosnia to refuse U.N. aid to Sarajevo

February 13, 1993|By New York Times News Service

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- In a move that appeared to have been prompted by the Clinton administration's policy statement this week on the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Bosnian government announced yesterday that it would refuse to accept any further deliveries of United Nations food and medical aid to Sarajevo until U.N. relief convoys begin regular deliveries to besieged Muslims in eastern Bosnia.

The announcement, blocking virtually the only food and medicine reaching this besieged city, was made less than 36 hours after Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher outlined a new, tougher U.S. policy on Bosnia. Among other things, Mr. Christopher said the administration had not ruled out "quite determined steps" to ensure the delivery of U.N. relief supplies in this former Yugoslav republic.

The Bosnian government's move took effect immediately, as U.N. relief officials ordered a halt to truck convoys that have been ferrying cargoes of food and medicine into the city, from the airport and by a 225-mile overland link from the Croatian port of Split.

U.N. warehouses and local distribution centers in the city were virtually empty when the halt was ordered, and U.N. officials said the limited warehousing space at the airport was close to capacity already, raising the possibility that the relief airlift to the city by military aircraft from the United States and a dozen European countries might have to be halted.

Officials said the halt to deliveries into the city would last as long as it took to persuade the United Nations to move more forcefully to get supplies through Serbian blockades in the eastern region of the republic.

But U.N. officials said they suspected that the move was brinkmanship and that the government would back down after a few days if U.N. efforts to get Serbian agreement to run several convoys into eastern Bosnia succeeded.

If sustained, the Bosnian decision could quickly lead to a critical situation in the city, where tens of thousands of families rely entirely on the U.N. deliveries for survival.

The decision was announced by Muhammed Kresevljakovic, the mayor of Sarajevo, but officials made it clear that the move had been approved by President Alija Izetbegovic and his government.

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