Pact declares Srebrenica safe 135 U.N. soldiers enter Bosnian city

cease-fire in effect

April 19, 1993|By New York Times News Service

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- A contingent of 135 United Nations soldiers from Canada entered the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica yesterday to set up a "safe area" under an accord signed by leaders of Bosnian Serbs and Muslims.

In addition to designating the enclave a "safe area," the accord called for an immediate cease-fire and gave U.N. troops 72 hours to disarm the government garrison in the eastern Bosnian city.

"We can now guarantee the survival of Srebrenica," Gen. Philippe Morillon, commander of the U.N. protection force in Bosnia, told reporters in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.

The French general said mounting international pressure on Serbian political and military leaders had forced them to halt an attack when their troops were within hours of overrunning Srebrenica.

But the pact amounted to little more than a disguised surrender of Srebrenica to avoid a massacre, said the commanders of the Muslim-led defenders of Srebrenica. Their view was shared by

some senior officers on General Morillon's staff.

"We're not fooling ourselves," a senior Bosnian officer said. "This is a surrender, because nobody will want to stay in Srebrenica after our forces are disarmed.

"If the United Nations wants to pretend that putting one company of Canadian soldiers in there will persuade the Serbian forces that Srebrenica is lost to them, OK, let them pretend. But we've seen too much of Serbian aggression to delude ourselves into thinking that they've given up on the 'ethnic cleansing' of eastern Bosnia. They haven't."

The cease-fire also failed to impress the U.N. Security Council. Late Saturday night, the council called Russia's bluff when it threatened a veto and voted to slap stiff new economic sanctions against Yugoslavia on April 26 unless the Serbs sign the international peace plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina by then.

The draconian economic blockade approved by the Security Council threatens to plunge Serbia into an isolation as deep as Iraq's unless its nationalist president, Slobodan Milosevic, persuades the leader of Bosnia's Serbs to make peace in the next eight days.

Less than three hours after the Canadians arrived, three French military helicopters took off with 133 of the wounded, including at least some Bosnian soldiers. They were evacuated to Tuzla, a city 35 miles away that is under government control.

Virtually all those rescued were taken to Tuzla's city hospital after the 60-mile flight.

"This isn't the answer," said a U.N. military official who insisted on remaining anonymous. He called the two-month U.N. effort to negotiate a halt to the Serbian onslaught against Srebrenica an embarrassing failure. "The Serbs knew the outside world would mount no credible military threat, and they went right on," he added.

If the Serbs fail to sign the peace plan, ships will be banned from entering Yugoslavia's territorial waters. No other country will be allowed to ship goods across its territory to other nations, and every Yugoslavian plane, ship, truck and cargo container outside the country will be confiscated.

Barges will not be allowed to pass through Yugoslavia along the Danube unless they receive special permission and carry U.N. monitors on board. Foreign bank accounts and other financial assets of Yugoslav institutions will be frozen.

Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, threatened as he often has in the past to pull out of the peace negotiations altogether. He vowed never to accept the peace plan, which calls for Bosnia to be divided into 10 semi-autonomous provinces dominated by different ethnic groups.

"This is an imposition of a solution," he said. "It's not viable."

Within the U.N. command, one senior officer also pointed to what he called "a basic contradiction" between the eventual occupation of Srebrenica by Serbian forces and the peace plan put forward by negotiators for the United Nations and the European Community.

That plan, accepted by the Bosnian government and the Croatian nationalists in Bosnia but rejected by Serbian nationalist leaders, designates Srebrenica as part of a future province that would be Muslim-controlled.

The calm that settled over Srebrenica was not matched elsewhere in Bosnia.

In Sarajevo, Serbs lining up outside a relief office for painted eggs for the Eastern Orthodox celebration of Easter were struck by a mortar shell that U.N. observers said apparently was fired from a Serbian gun position in the hills. Four people were killed and seven injured, including several children.

The sporadic shelling of the capital was accompanied by similar attacks elsewhere, notably at Bihac in northwestern Bosnia, an overwhelmingly Muslim area.

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