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Desperate, last-ditch attempt by the West to save Srebrenica:


  By John F. Burns
  The New York Times News Service
  Sunday, April 9, 1993

Extensive quote presented on the green stickers. All subtitles are ours.

For fair use only
Published under the provision of
U.S. Code, Title 17, section 107.

"Over my dead body!"

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina The United Nations' most senior military commanders in what was Yugoslavia met with a blunt rebuff Friday when they made an urgent visit to Belgrade, the Serbian capital, to try to win Serbian assurances that Serbian nationalist troops in Bosnia will not overrun the besieged Muslim enclave of Srebrenica.

The Serbian military commander in Bosnia, Gen. Ratko Mladic, emerged from a meeting with the U.N. military commanders in the Serbian capital and angrily rejected the principal demand that the U.N. generals had carried to the meeting, that Serbian forces permit an infantry company of 150 Canadian troops serving with the U.N. force to enter Srebrenica to serve as a guarantor of the enclave's survival.

"Over my dead body, or the bodies of my family," Mladic told reporters who asked him about the U.N. request, according to Reuters news agency.

Break-neck diplomacy

Troops under the command of the 51-year-old general have been besieging Srebrenica for a year.

They have recently renewed artillery, tank and infantry attacks on the enclave, raising fears that they may be preparing to seize the area ... in a new round of... offensives that have secured control of two-thirds of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the Serbian forces.

The U.N. commanders, Lt. Gen. Lars-Eric Wahlgren of Sweden and Lt. Gen. Philippe Morillon of France, traveled at short notice to Belgrade from Zagreb, the Croatian capital, in what amounted to a last-ditch attempt to halt the Serbian attack on Srebrenica.

Arming the Serbian enemy
while pretending to be neutral

But their efforts were complicated by the controversy that erupted Thursday when Serbian forces maintaining the siege of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, discovered a cache of ammunition concealed beneath a cargo of flour that a U.N. relief truck was carrying to a district held by Bosnian government troops.

The discovery of what U.N. officials said was a total of 21,800 rounds of assault rifle and machine-gun ammunition amounted to a potential body blow to U.N. relief efforts across Bosnia and Herzegovina, since it provided the Serbian forces with grounds to intensify their policy of delaying, and wherever possible halting, U.N. convoys of food and medical supplies.

Serbian military commanders announced that they would institute "detailed control of all humanitarian convoys" and that any repetition of the incident would result in the arrest of the U.N. personnel involved and the seizure of the relief supplies involved.

Officials of the U.N. military command said they had ordered an investigation, but they warned that it would be difficult to pinpoint those responsible for hiding the ammunition in the U.N. truck, given the large number of locally employed U.N. workers, including Serbs and Muslims, who have access to the relief trucks and their cargos.

"We have our suspicions, but it will be a miracle if in the end we can point the finger," said Lt. Col. Patricia Purves of the British army, serving with the U.N. Command at its headquarters at Kiseljak, 25 miles west of Sarajevo...

The major disappointment was the Serbian refusal to allow the Canadian troops to enter Srebrenica, a move that was ordered by the U.N. Security Council last weekend.

Serbs within 1,000 yards of Srebrenica

An official of the U.N. military force in Belgrade, Shannon Boyd, told reporters that Mladic commander, had undertaken to order the troops who have approached within 1,000 yards of Srebrenica to halt their attacks from 2 p.m. local time Saturday, and to hold their fire even if attacked.

According to Reuters, Mladic also agreed to attend a meeting under U.N. chairmanship with military leaders of the Muslim-led Bosnian government at Sarajevo airport on Monday to seek a permanent end to the fighting around Srebrenica.

While defeated...
Muslims negotiate from position of strength

Ms. Boyd said Bosnian military commanders had agreed to attend the meeting on the condition that the Serbian forces halted all attacks at Srebrenica.

On Tuesday, Bosnian military officials walked out of a high-level meeting with Serbian commanders at Sarajevo airport in protest at the Serbian attacks at Srebrenica, but Ms. Boyd said U.N. commanders felt that another attempt was worthwhile...

Tireless efforts of
French Foreign Legion general
to save Srebrenica Muslim enclave

The latest meeting in Belgrade followed what appeared to have been a deliberate Serbian humiliation of General Morillon, commander of the 8,000-member U.N. force in Bosnia, when he tried to return to Srebrenica from Sarajevo on Wednesday.

After forcing the 57-year-old French officer to send three of the five U.N. armored vehicles in his entourage back to Sarajevo, the Serbian forces refused to intervene while a crowd of Serbian civilians halted the two remaining vehicles 15 miles from Srebrenica and vandalized the vehicles.

Mladic appeared to have intentionally compounded the affront to Morillon by arriving at the scene aboard a military helicopter, in apparent defiance of the no-flight zone that the Security Council declared last fall.

Mladic told Morillon that he was powerless to clear a passage through the demonstrators, and advised the U.N. commander to leave the scene of the confrontation by following Mladic's helicopter.

Morillon then set off on a marathon drive in the French armored vehicles, 14 hours across the Bosnian mountains to Split, a city on the Croatian coast 300 miles away.

There, a U.N. aircraft picked up the U.N. commander and carried him via Zagreb, the Croatian capital, to Belgrade. The journey was the latest chapter in the general's tireless efforts to save Srebrenica from the Serbian forces, which began when he entered the Muslim enclave in mid-March, ran a U.N. flag atop the post office, and promised the townspeople that he would remain with them until their survival was assured.

"Neutral" Western negotiator threatens
to bomb one party of the negotiation

The apparent Serbian determination to maintain pressure on Srebrenica, one of three remaining pockets of Muslim habitation in eastern Bosnia, appeared to have exhausted the patience of Lord Owen, a co-chairman of the international peace conference on Yugoslavia.

The negotiators have drawn up a peace plan for Bosnia that has been accepted by the Bosnian government and by Croatian nationalists in Bosnia, who have been the third force in the war, but rejected by the Serbian nationalists, who have demanded major changes.

Owen, speaking in an interview in London with the British Broadcasting Corp., implied that Western governments might have to order direct military action against Serbian troops to force their leaders to accept the peace plan.

According to Reuters, Owen said he had always thought that Western governments might have to back up the economic sanctions imposed on Serbia with some form of military intervention.

Owen appeared to be referring to military action that would go beyond the enforcement of the U.N. no-flight zone over Bosnia, which will begin Monday.


 [ The second fall of Srebrenica ]
 [ Srebrenica "massacre" ]

  Where am I? PATH:

  Book of facts

History of the Balkans

Big powers and civil wars in Yugoslavia
(How was Yugoslavia dismantled and why.)

Proxies at work
(Muslims, Croats and Albanians alike were only proxies of the big powers)

The Aftermath

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Last revised: July 17, 2004