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U.N. Mission Nears Collapse as Serbs Assert Control

July 15, 1995

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ One year ago, the withdrawal of U.N. troops would have been seen as a disaster. Now many Bosnians want the peacekeepers to leave, even if it means more bloodshed.

``You have 30,000 U.N. soldiers in Bosnia _ what the heck are they doing there? I mean, this seems like one big camping trip,″ said Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey, summing up the contempt.

On paper, a priority of the U.N. mission in Bosnia, whose mandate expires in November, is to protect the six ``safe areas″. But since Serbs took more than 370 peacekeepers hostage in May, self-protection has topped the list.

The U.N.’s biggest humiliation came when Serbs overran the ``safe area″ of Srebrenica last week. U.N. commanders have protested the Serb onslaught against the ``safe area″ of Zepa but don’t even pretend they can protect it.

U.N. attempts to negotiate an end to the three-year war have hit rock-bottom. The Bosnian government is refusing to talk to special envoys Yasushi Akashi and Thorvald Stoltenberg, accusing them of being pro-Serb.

The world is more divided than ever on how to deal with the Serbs. U.S., British and French military leaders are to discuss in London on Sunday a French plan for securing the ``safe areas″ that hasn’t won Western support.

``We are peacekeepers in a war zone,″ said U.N. spokesman Alexander Ivanko. ``It is very hard for us to work when there is an ongoing war and when the troops we are facing are much stronger and better equipped than the peacekeepers.″

With Srebrenica fallen and Zepa likely to follow, the remaining ``safe area″ in eastern Bosnia _ Gorazde _ will likely be the Serbs’ next target to fulfil their war aim of a clean sweep from Sarajevo to the border with Serbia, the dominant republic in Yugoslavia.

The ``safe area″ of Bihac, in northwestern Bosnia, is under constant attack. More than 70 people were killed in May when a Serb mortar slammed into a town square in the north-central ``safe area″ of Tuzla.

In the sixth ``safe area″, Sarajevo, there are daily deaths from firefights between government forces and rebel Serbs. In June both sides seized back heavy weapons that had been under U.N. control since last year.

The U.N. airlift to Sarajevo’s 280,000 civilians was grounded by Serb attacks in April. Land convoys must brave the hazardous Mt. Igman road, the only connection between Sarajevo and the outside world.

Two U.N. aid trucks were destroyed Friday and their drivers injured by Serb fire.

``This month we’ve got through four convoys with 240 tons of wheat flour to keep the bakery going. It’s way short of the target of 6,000 tons,″ said Kris Janowski of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Bihac has lacked regular supplies for the past year. Deliveries to the eastern enclaves depend on the whim of the Serbs, who surround them.

The situation is better in central Bosnia, where Muslims and Croats live in relative harmony. U.N. troops have also been busy in central Bosnia repairing roads and bridges destroyed in 1993 Muslim-Croat fighting.

But efforts to restore electricity and water supplies to Sarajevo have failed. Most people wonder just what the United Nations is doing to help.

``Apart from the fact that they have been feeding us with out-of-date cans, the United Nations has always been just keeping the status quo and prolonging our misery,″ said 30-year-old cafe owner Ervan Colic.

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