U.N. Escorts Fifth Tank After Serb Commander Threatens Force
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ U.N. troops have allowed another Bosnian Serb tank through a protected zone around Sarajevo after the Serb military commander threatened to use force.
The tank passed through late Thursday, the fifth this week.
The United Nations was expected to allow two more tanks to pass through this afternoon. But spokesman Maj. Dacre Holloway said later that U.N. commanders in Sarajevo would stop the tanks, pending further negotiations.
The U.N. agreement to escort a limited number of Serb tanks through the 12.4-mile zone has worried commanders of the NATO alliance, which has pledged to enforce the weapons ban around Sarajevo with air strikes.
The Bosnian government accused the United Nations of aiding rival Serbs and demanded the resignation of the chief U.N. official for former Yugoslavia, Yasushi Akashi.
At his U.N. headquarters in Zagreb, Croatia, Akashi defended his decision on Thursday, saying the Serb tanks ″were to adopt a posture which is non- threatening so far as their capability to attack Sarajevo.″
Most of the tanks apparently are from the Serb stronghold of Pale east of Sarajevo. They were headed for Trnovo south of the Bosnian capital. It was unclear why Serbs wanted to move them.
The tank deal involved Serb agreement to free 160 British peacekeepers held since Sunday by Serb soldiers outside the Muslim enclave of Gorazde, where the Britons were supposed to join 500 peacekeepers monitoring a shaky truce.
The British troops were allowed into Gorazde, a U.N. ″safe area″ southeast of Sarajevo, on Thursday.
Akashi said the Serbs also agreed to allow U.N. military observers to deploy in the area of Brcko in northern Bosnia, a potential Muslim-Serb flashpoint.
Peacekeepers allowed four tanks to pass through the zone Wednesday and Thursday. They stopped a fifth on Thursday evening and demanded that it be turned back, which Serb military leaders promised to do, said U.N. spokesman Cmdr. Eric Chaperon.
But the Bosnian Serb military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic, later threatened to use force, Chaperon said. Within 15 minutes, the U.N. command agreed to allow the tank through, escorted by U.N. troops.
Bosnia’s collective presidency said it was ″shocked″ by the decision to let the tanks pass and demanded Akashi’s resignation. The Muslim-led government accused Akashi of ″practically taking part in the aggression on Bosnia-Herzegovina.″
U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, speaking in Geneva, said Akashi ″continues to have my full confidence. There’s no question of any kind of replacement.″
The Bosnian government has chastised Akashi in the past for failing to use his authority to call in NATO air strikes to protect the U.N.-designated ″safe areas″ from Serb attacks.
NATO officials who met with Akashi in Zagreb expressed concern about weapons in the exclusion zone in defiance of an alliance ultimatum.
″I would say that from NATO perspective, it’s very difficult when NATO does not control what happens on the ground,″ said Gen. George Joulwan, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe.
The controversy threatened the cease-fire that has kept Sarajevo largely quiet since mid-February, when NATO threatened to bomb the Bosnian Serbs if they did not remove all weapons from the 20-kilometer, or 12.4-mile, zone around Sarajevo or place them under U.N. control.
There have been increasing reports of weapons within the zone and of cease- fire violations. Two planes were hit by gunfire landing at Sarajevo airport Tuesday, leading to the suspension of relief flights.
Flights were resumed today, said U.N. aid spokesman Peter Kessler in Zagreb.
Bosnia’s minority Serbs, armed by the Yugoslav federal army, launched the war two years ago when they rebelled against a Muslim-Croat vote to secede from Yugoslavia. More than 200,000 people have been killed or reported missing.