Bosnia-Herzegovina Tests Army's Intent, UN Role in Region YUGOSLAV CONFLICT

Article excerpt

AS Yugoslav jets screamed through clear skies to bomb strategic targets west of the city of Mostar on Wednesday, many felt a sense of d vu: the Yugoslav Army rolling into another breakaway republic wracked by ethnic violence.

"The role of the Army is the big question right now," said one senior Western diplomat. "But it has yet to show its true colors. Its bombing raid on Mostar apparently came because of provocation by Croatian forces. But it has not yet been the initiator."

It seems only a question of time, however, before the Serb-led Army becomes more deeply involved in fighting in the former Yugoslav republic, whose independence was recognized this week along with Slovenia and Croatia by the United States and the European Community.

This week, the acting chief of staff for the Yugoslav Army, Col. Gen. Zivota Panic, said that the Army would not withdraw from Bosnia-Herzegovina as it is doing from Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia because 65 percent of its industry and installations are in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The fight in Bosnia-Herzegovina is more complex than in Croatia, however. In Croatia, a sizeable Serb minority was fighting for control of well-defined areas where it lived. In Bosnia, by contrast, there are three minorities who make up the 4.5 million population. Earlier this spring, Croats and Muslims voted for independence but Serbs boycotted. The Serbs have declared a "Serbian Autonomous Bosnia-Herzegovina."

"The immediate ... danger is that it {the Army} will simply allow Serb militants to get away with what they want," says one Western diplomat. …