Bosnian leaders demanded Thursday that the top U.N. official in the former Yugoslav federation resign, accusing him of helping Bosnian Serbs redeploy tanks around Sarajevo.
The uproar threatened efforts by international envoys to restart peace talks and undermined the United Nations' credibility in Bosnia.
The dispute involved at least five Serbian tanks that arrived late Wednesday and on Thursday at the protected zone around Sarajevo. Even though heavy weapons are forbidden in the area, U.N. soldiers allowed them to pass through.
U.N. spokesman Eric Chaperon said in the Bosnian capital that the chief U.N. envoy, Yasushi Akashi, had made a "verbal agreement" with the Serbs allowing them to move tanks through the protected zone under U.N. escort.
At U.N. headquarters in Zagreb, Croatia, Akashi defended his decision, saying the Serbian tanks "were to adopt a posture which is non-threatening so far as their capability to attack Sarajevo."
Bosnia's collective presidency said it was "shocked by the information" 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."
Meanwhile, six U.S., Russian and European negotiators arrived here Thursday on a special military flight for a second effort at brokering a cease-fire for all of Bosnia.