The major Western powers launched a bid Tuesday to strip Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia of its voting rights in the United Nations in retaliation for its prosecution of the war against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Led by Britain, delegates from the 12-nation European Community began sounding out members of the powerful U.N. Security Council on Tuesday about the possibility of pushing through a formal resolution on the question sometime this week.
The United States said it would support the European action, which would technically allow the present-day Belgrade government to keep the Yugoslav seat in the United Nations but would bar its delegates from speaking or casting any votes.
If the Security Council goes along, it would formally mark Yugoslavia as an international pariah. Only South Africa, whose voting rights have been suspended since 1974 to protest its apartheid system, has been denied such basic privileges of the world organization.
It was not immediately clear whether Russia and China would support the proposal. Russia declared Tuesday that it opposed excluding Yugoslavia entirely, but diplomatic sources said later they have been told that Moscow would not try to veto a somewhat narrower resolution.
The Security Council also is expected to take up later this week a second Western-backed resolution, this one imposing a "no-fly" zone--similar to the two now in place over areas of northern and southern Iraq--that would prohibit Serbian aircraft from flying over Bosnia.
The measure setting up a no-fly zone, recommended by all parties at a recent conference on the Yugoslav situation in London, is intended to prevent Serbian aircraft from using allied relief flights as cover for bombing missions against Bosnia.
The Security Council considered the no-fly measure informally over the weekend but put off formal action in order to push through a resolution Monday that expanded U.N. peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and authorized them to use force if attacked or impeded.
Tuesday's action came as the U.N. General Assembly formally opened its 47th annual session, facing a massive agenda of more than 140 items that cover the full gamut of international problems, from famine in Africa to concern over the environment.
Delegates from the United Nations' 179 member countries elected Stoyan Ganev, Bulgaria's new foreign minister, to be president of the General Assembly, making him the youngest man in U.N. history to hold the office. Ganev is 37.
The General Assembly will begin a three-week general debate Monday in which leaders and foreign ministers of most of the member countries, including President Bush, are scheduled to deliver major foreign policy addresses.
Tuesday's opening-day session of the General Assembly was marked by a barrage of criticism of Yugoslavia as Western delegates--and representatives of some developing countries as well--took the podium to denounce Belgrade's support for the war in Bosnia.
British U.N. Ambassador David Hannay said it was "anomalous and unacceptable" that representatives of the current Belgrade government, made up only of Serbia and Montenegro, should automatically have the right to claim the seat of its Communist predecessor.
Hannay said the resolution that the Europeans plan to propose in the Security Council also would deny Belgrade's claim to assume the Yugoslav seat, effectively barring it from participating in U.N. activities.
Diplomats said this ban would apply to all U.N.-related organizations, presumably including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The 15-member Security Council is the most powerful group in the U.N. structure.
Edward Perkins, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, supported Hannay's views in a floor speech.