Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bosnia Conflict Wavers between Attacks, Talks NATO Constraints on Airstrikes Have Allowed Bosnian Serbs to Regain Military Control of Almost All of Besieged Balkan Nation

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bosnia Conflict Wavers between Attacks, Talks NATO Constraints on Airstrikes Have Allowed Bosnian Serbs to Regain Military Control of Almost All of Besieged Balkan Nation

Article excerpt

FOR the most part, this is the way the Bosnian war has gone: When a crisis looms, the United States and its Western allies ponder options.

Bosnian Serbs pull triggers.

This imbalance between irresolution and will by the West has enabled attacking Serbs to essentially win their war against an unprepared Bosnian Muslim government.

Continued bitter fighting over enclaves such as Gorazde belies the fact that Bosnian Serbs now control some 70 percent of the country and have achieved virtually all their military goals.

A broader mandate for NATO airstrikes may yet force Serbs back from the center of Gorazde and provide a measure of security for other United Nations designated safe areas such as Tuzla. But these cities would remain islands of Muslim refugees afloat in a sea of hostile Serb territory.

For months the West has been trying only to make the end of the war as palatable as possible. There is little talk in Washington, London, or the United Nations about rolling back Serb gains.

"It's not just a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions. It's one of the great moral tragedies of our time," said a bitter House majority whip, Rep. David Bonior (D) of Michigan, on April 19.

At this writing, Bosnian Serbs were continuing to rain shells on the essentially defenseless Gorazde core. By noon local time on April 20, over 200 shells had landed, according to relief workers trapped in the town.

Meanwhile, NATO representatives met in Brussels to consider a UN request for expanded permission to call in airstrikes when necessary.

Technically, the UN up to this point has only been able to call on NATO for close air support to protect UN peacekeepers on the ground and to enforce the safe area around Sarajevo.

The proposal calls for the airstrike umbrella to be explicitly expanded to all UN safe areas - Tuzla, Bihac, Srebrenica, and Zepa, as well as Sarajevo and Gorazde. An expanded list of approved targets, including artillery and mortar sites, would presumably make Bosnian Serbs take this threat more seriously than they did the reality of last weeks's pinprick close-air support strikes near Gorazde.

US officials have also decided to press for tighter economic sanctions on the Serbian government in Belgrade. …

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