Yugoslavs are in Bosnia fighting, U.N. officers say

January 08, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

PANCEVO, Yugoslavia -- Serbian-led Yugoslavia is flouting United Nations sanctions and deploying troops to neighboring Bosnia, U.N. officers said yesterday.

Yugoslav army paratroop units are routinely engaged in hostilities in Bosnia, Capt. Jantora Strandas of Norway reported, denying contentions by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and other Belgrade officials that they have not supported Bosnian Serb forces.

His comments also undermine demands put forward this week by Serbian leaders for lifting sanctions imposed on Belgrade 19 months ago for the violent partition of Bosnia.

Sarajevo radio reported heavy artillery attacks by Bosnian Serb forces that have been besieging the shattered capital from the surrounding heights for 21 months.

Belgian Gen. Francis Briquemont, commander of the U.N. Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in Bosnia, lodged a sharp protest with the Bosnian government and Serbian rebel forces for the upsurge in fighting.

A U.N. statement said the Muslim-led government started the week's surge in fighting with infantry assaults and that the Serbian retaliation was far out of proportion to the assaults.

Reports from U.N. observers and local residents have confirmed the long-term presence of Yugoslav army paratroopers and vehicles in northern and eastern Bosnia, Captain Strandas said.

"Just stand in Zvornik [a Serbian-held town on the Bosnian-Serb frontier] and watch the Yugoslav army cross over," he said.

His remarks follow a scathing denunciation of U.N. operations by General Briquemont, who is resigning and will leave Bosnia by the end of this month. He criticized a "fantastic gap" between resolutions and the political will to carry them out.

Several Security Council resolutions aimed at stopping the war in Bosnia have been ignored, such as threats to launch NATO air strikes against Serbian artillery besieging Sarajevo or using air power to punish violators of a no-fly zone over Bosnian air space.

To illustrate his point that UNPROFOR is powerless against Serbian intransigence, Captain Strandas pointed to eleven German-made Leopard tanks, the most powerful military hardware U.N. commanders have tried to deploy anywhere. For three months the tanks, equipped with 105 mm guns, have stood idle in an open shed, even though "they need exercise," the Norwegian said.

Bosnian Serb leaders reneged on a pledge to allow the Leopards to cross front lines to protect U.N. troops on a mission to Tuzla, a Bosnian government stronghold in the northeast surrounded by Serbian forces.

The Leopards "are vital for opening the Tuzla airport," which will provide an important lifeline of emergency relief for the 200,000 inhabitants trapped in the city. The United States has reacted coolly to a request from France for air support for ground forces dispatched to secure the air field.

"It should have taken the Leopards three hours to get to Tuzla," said Captain Strandas.

Instead, the Serbian ban has left the Nordic contingent with little choice but to escort the tanks on a three-day rail journey from the U.N. base at Pancevo.

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.