Bosnian Serbs Snub U.N. Chief : Balkans: Rebels’ refusal to meet Boutros-Ghali signals end of tolerance for foreign efforts. He also angers Muslims by urging regime to concede on truce terms.


Bosnian Serbs delivered a humiliating snub to one of the world’s most prominent diplomats Wednesday, refusing to meet U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and sounding a death knell on their tolerance for foreign efforts to protect Bosnian Muslims.

Boutros-Ghali flew into the artillery-encircled Bosnian capital on an urgent mission to secure assurances from Serbian rebel leader Radovan Karadzic that his nationalist gunmen would halt attacks on the U.N. “safe area” of Bihac and stop harassing U.N. forces.

But after being rebuffed for more than five hours by Karadzic, who refused even to speak to the U.N. chief by phone, Boutros-Ghali and his international entourage left Sarajevo trailing grave warnings about what lies ahead for the country’s targeted Muslims.


Serbian gunmen loyal to Karadzic appear to have concluded that the 24,000 U.N. Protection Force peacekeepers deployed in this country have exhausted their usefulness as purveyors of humanitarian aid and buffer forces that have effectively shielded the rebels from retaliation by Muslim-led Bosnian government troops.

In the last two weeks, Serbian nationalists have defied NATO air strikes and plunged deep into the Bihac safe area, seizing nearly half the territory and uprooting tens of thousands more civilians.

Two million Bosnians have already been made homeless by the rebels’ siege and their practice of “ethnic cleansing,” and 200,000--most of them Muslims--are dead or missing.

The Serbs have also taken about 500 U.N. troops hostage as insurance against further NATO air strikes and refused to release them despite virtual capitulation by Western powers on the use of force to protect U.N. enclaves.

Expressing his “deep disappointment” at Karadzic’s refusal to meet him at the U.N.-controlled airport here, Boutros-Ghali said he will not personally recommend withdrawing U.N. troops from Bosnia. But he warned that a pullout might be inevitable in view of international impatience with the increasingly perilous Balkans mission.

U.N. officials had warned a day earlier that the future of the Bosnian deployment was at stake unless Boutros-Ghali’s Sarajevo visit produced significant breakthroughs toward a negotiated settlement.


He came to Sarajevo with plans to press both the Serbian rebels and government leaders for concessions that would allow a nationwide cease-fire to be declared and new negotiations to open on an ethnic division of Bosnia.

“My message to them is that unless they do this, it will become impossible for me to persuade the Security Council to keep UNPROFOR here,” Boutros-Ghali told reporters, in a veiled warning that the mission’s days may be numbered.

Karadzic made clear by standing up Boutros-Ghali that continuation of the peacekeeping mission was less important to him than it is to the Bosnian Muslims, whom the troops were sent to protect.

But the mostly Muslim government supporters have also grown resentful of the U.N. mission. They believe that it has betrayed them by refusing to protect the safe areas with air power.

Hundreds of Sarajevans jeered Boutros-Ghali as he left the downtown offices of President Alija Izetbegovic, whom he pressed to concede to Serbian rebel terms for a cease-fire and surrender.

A source who accompanied Boutros-Ghali in his discussions with the Bosnian president said he “instilled a sense of reality” into the internationally recognized Bosnian leadership.


“He told them, ‘Don’t expect UNPROFOR to go beyond peacekeeping. We are neither structured nor equipped for it. And don’t expect massive air strikes. Unless you cooperate, there is no way UNPROFOR can stay,’ ” the official quoted Boutros-Ghali as warning the beleaguered government.

The U.N. special envoy for the Balkans, Yasushi Akashi, said that in view of the swiftly deteriorating military situation that has put peacekeepers at risk, the mission’s future will be contingent on concessions from the Muslim-led Bosnian government.

“A stark warning was delivered,” Akashi told reporters who traveled with him from mission headquarters in Zagreb, Croatia. “The Bosnians were a bit surprised, but I think that surprise was necessary.”

An angered Izetbegovic accused the U.N. mission of repeatedly reneging on promises to get tough with the recalcitrant Serbs, who have vetoed every negotiated settlement the international community has brokered.

Izetbegovic also appealed for more effective use of NATO air power to protect Bosnian civilians taking refuge in the few areas designated by the United Nations as protected zones. All six safe areas--Sarajevo, Bihac, Gorazde, Zepa, Srebrenica and Tuzla--are routinely subjected to Serbian artillery fire, but the U.N. mission rejects air strikes as incompatible with its neutral peacekeeping role.

“He does not have the right to be neutral. He should say clearly to the French, British and other powers slowing him down that the legal government should be defended,” Izetbegovic said of Boutros-Ghali after their one-hour meeting.


“Let me say this loud and clear,” an impassioned Izetbegovic added. “This is about a conflict between a democratic and legal government and black fascism.”

Boutros-Ghali spent most of the rest of his six-hour visit at the sandbagged and barbed wire-enclosed forward headquarters of the U.N. commander for Bosnia, British Lt. Gen. Michael Rose.

Mission officials and aides pleaded by telephone with Karadzic underlings for a meeting at the airport, but were told that the rebel leader would see Boutros-Ghali only at his self-styled capital, Pale, 10 miles east.

“I am not going to go to Pale because the United Nations has recognized the Bosnian republic but we have not recognized any other kind of entity,” Boutros-Ghali told reporters.

Boutros-Ghali reacted with what he termed “great serenity” to the rebel leader’s snub, saying only that Karadzic had done his people “a great disservice.”

However, with the Serbs clearly trying to force a withdrawal of the U.N. forces shielding their enemies, the rebels are likely to see the threats to the mission as a victory.


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