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Departing U.N. Commander Sees Some Success, But Fears More War With AM-Yugoslavia

February 26, 1993

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ After watching comrades die as peace efforts faltered, the departing U.N. commander in former Yugoslavia said Thursday that U.N. troops should not have to ″shed their blood″ for people unwilling to halt fighting.

Lt. Gen. Satish Nambiar’s harsh criticism for warring Serbs, Croats and Muslims in Bosnia comes days before he is to step down.

The publicity-shy Indian said only local leaders can end the war. Peace ″is not something that can be imposed by diplomats and political leaders and enforced by foreign troops,″ he said.

″There is no reason why men and women from far away countries should shed their blood on behalf of communities unwilling to come to terms with each other,″ he said.

Twenty-nine peacekeepers have been killed and 387 injured in the Balkans so far.

Nambiar’s contract expires at the end of February and he did not wish to renew it. Command of the 25,000-member U.N. Protection Force passes to Swedish Lt. Gen. Lars-Eric Wahlgren on March 2.

With Serb-Croat fighting raging once again in western Croatia and Bosnian peace talks hanging by a thread, it is not clear whether the U.N. peacekeeping mandate in former Yugoslavia will be extended beyond the end of March.

In a farewell statement, Nambiar praised his blue-helmeted soldiers for managing to ″keep the peace for a period of time″ in Croatia, where Croats and Serbs warred for half a year in 1991 and began fighting again last month. ″We have succeeded in that we have prevented a resumption of a full-scale war between Serbia and Croatia,″ Nambiar said from the U.N. command in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital. But he warned that ″the danger of war remains.″

The commander’s comments mirrored the frustration of many of the 14,000 peacekeepers from 24 countries who came to Croatia to cement a January 1992 truce brokered by U.N. mediator Cyrus Vance.

Some 10,000 people died in fighting after Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia in June 1991. The fighting in the Dalmatian hinterland continued Thursday.

More frustrating still has been U.N. involvement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where more than 100,000 people are reported dead or missing after more than 10 months of war.

When peacekeepers first arrived in the Balkans in January 1992, Vance placed U.N. military headquarters in Sarajevo as a symbolic deterrent against Croatia’s war spreading to Bosnia.

But Bosnia exploded in violence when Muslims and Croats seceded from Yugoslavia and Serbs, backed by Belgrade, tried to crush the independence drive. Nambiar’s troops saw their mandate expanded eight times and themselves drawn deeper into the fray.

U.N. peacekeepers often faced harsh criticism from Croats and Bosnia’s warring factions, who accused the peacekeepers of partiality.

″He reminds me of a clown. He didn’t even try to do anything,″ said Zagreb sales clerk Nada Vulic, 29, when asked about Nambiar’s departure.

Sarajevans blamed Gen. Philippe Morillon, U.N. commander in Bosnia, when Deputy Premier Hakija Turajlic was shot dead by Serbs in January while he was riding in a U.N. armored car from the U.N.-controlled airport to the city.

The Serbs said they thought the United Nations was helping to smuggle weapons or Turkish mercenaries in the car.

When U.N. chief Boutros Boutros-Ghali visited Sarajevo over the Christmas holiday, he angered locals when he told them there were 14 worse places in the world than the besieged capital. Some bystanders even threw eggs, precious to hungry Sarajevans.

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