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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Differs as U.N. Backs NATO

UNITED NATIONS -- Security Council members, with the exception of Russia, strongly backed air strikes by NATO around Sarajevo if the Bosnian capital was shelled again, but avoided taking any formal action.

"The conflict has now reached a turning point, which we should all be aware of," said France's Ambassador Jean-Bernard Merimee.

The Security Council meeting came as NATO and U.N. positions on air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs appeared to have diverged over the weekend, with U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia taking a broader view of the terms under which the Serbs must lift their siege of Sarajevo.

Russia, while not criticizing NATO, suggested the council needed to adopt a "proper" resolution that would include the latest call for a cease-fire and the withdrawal and regrouping of heavy weapons by combatants around Sarajevo.

Russia's ambassador, Yuly Vorontsov, spoke during the first council debate since NATO last Wednesday and agreed to a request by Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to use air power against shelling of civilians in Sarajevo.

NATO went further and imposed a Thursday deadline for combatants to remove or regroup their heavy weapons under U.N. control, a provision not specifically ordered by the council.

But NATO members on the council have ensured that no resolution or statement would be passed that would dilute the NATO decision. Russia would need nine votes, which it lacks, to bring any measure to the floor.

U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright said: "These (NATO) decisions are consistent with resolution approved by this council. They do not require further council action.

"We are entering unchartered waters. Cooperation between NATO and the U.N. is essential -- not only for the citizens of Sarajevo and other safe areas in Bosnia, but also for the precedent it will set for the future of collective security."

U.N. officers at the weekend said it might not be necessary for the Serbs to withdraw heavy weapons 20 kilometers from the city or centralize them under U.N. control by next weekend.

"The 10-day ultimatum is a NATO ultimatum, it is not our ultimatum," said Lieutenant Colonel Bill Aikman, the U.N. spokesman in Sarajevo.

The U.N. position is critical since the U.N. commander for Bosnia, General Sir Michael Rose, says the responsibility for initiating air strikes is his. Lieutenant Colonel Simon Shadbolt, one of Rose's aides, said it would be wrong to pay much attention to the number of guns turned in to the United Nations.

There are "other ways of controlling heavy weapons than putting barbed wire round them," the British Royal Marine said. He suggested the installation of ground battery radars to monitor cease-fire violations and pinpoint offending guns for attack by strike aircraft.

Rose brokered a cease-fire and disengagement agreement between Moslems and Serbs on the day NATO issued its directive. His inclination to negotiate details of a weapons pull-back could be undermining NATO's position.

No one in Sarajevo is willing to define the point where NATO's ultimatum and the U.N. cease-fire process coincide.

"They're two separate things, that's all I can tell you," Aikman told reporters, agreeing it was confusing.

American and NATO officials, however, insist the ultimatum is nonnegotiable. U.S. President Bill Clinton said Monday that the threat of NATO air strikes is firm and he sees no disagreement with the U.N. on that point.

"I expect that the terms of the NATO agreement will be followed," Clinton said amid reports that U.N. field commanders might be easing back from NATO threats.

"Keep in mind, the secretary general of the United Nations asked us to take action. We agreed to take action. All along the way the United States made clear that if we were going take this step, we had to be prepared to take the step," Clinton said.