Bosnian Serbs Vow Moslem Blockade

SARAJEVO -- Furious over being left in the lurch by Serbia, Bosnian Serb leaders are threatening to seal off Moslem-controlled areas of their republic so tightly that "even a bird will not be able to fly across."


The threat uttered by Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic late Thursday reflected the desperation left in the wake of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's decision earlier this month to freeze all but humanitarian aid to his Bosnian brethren.


Though Milosevic has refused international demands for monitors on the Serbian-Bosnian border, he seems serious in enforcing the trade ban in a bid to have international sanctions on Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia eased. The break with Serbia is bound to hurt the Bosnian Serbs, who have depended on Milosevic for weapons and other supplies during the 29-month war.


"No one in the world expected Yugoslavia to introduce ... sanctions against us," Karadzic told an assembly of Bosnian Serbs in Pale, east of Sarajevo. "I think that we now have the full right to impose such sanctions against the Moslems so that even a bird will not be able to fly across until the world forces Yugoslavia to lift its economic sanctions against us."


Karadzic did not elaborate, and his forces are too thinly stretched to be able to seal off all access to the little more than 30 percent of Bosnia his troops do not control. But he would be able to prevent United Nations' aid convoys from reaching Moslem enclaves and by threat of force could ground aircraft flying in relief supplies to Sarajevo.


But UN officials said such a move could backfire on Bosnia's Serbs. "They would be literally cutting off their nose to spite their face," Peter Kessler, a UN aid agency spokesman, said Friday.


He said his organization, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, targets some 8,600 tons per month to besieged areas under government control, and some 8,400 tons per month to those in Serb-controlled regions, "so, literally they would be cutting off equal amounts of aid to their own people."


Of the three eastern Moslem enclaves, Srebrenica would likely be worst hit by any Serb clampdown. The Bosnian government maintains that because of frequent Serb blockades of the region, UN food deliveries have already fallen to 110 grams (about 3.5 ounces) a day for each resident. Kessler also expressed concern about continued Serb expulsions of Moslems from northern Bosnia, saying hundreds -- possibly as many as 600 -- crossed the front line between Serb-held Bijeljina and government-controlled Tuzla early Friday.


Kessler said that all of the estimated 2,000 Moslems remaining in Bijeljina and nearby Janja will ethnically cleansed within two weeks at the present rate.


Kessler on Thursday said that the ethnic cleansing campaign in the region has been too large to be considered an isolated incident. "These movements have been accompanied by ethnic terrorism," he said. "There have been several cases of rape. People have been robbed of jewelry and belongings."


And Lisa Jones, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said Red Cross delegates in Bijeljina reported that the non-Serb population in the town is "terrified."


The expulsions have increased in recent weeks following the Bosnian Serb leadership's rejection of an international peace plan.


The plan would require Bosnian Serbs to give up about one-third of the 70 percent of the country they have seized. The remaining 51 percent would go to a Moslem-Croat federation.