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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Victorious Serbs Expel Moslems From Enclave

SARAJEVO -- Victorious Bosnian Serb troops pursuing their campaign of "ethnic cleansing" drove thousands of Moslem refugees, mostly women and children, out of the captured enclave of Srebrenica on Thursday.

Refugees and aid workers spoke of harrowing journeys across the front lines, women carrying babies in their arms, and the walking wounded limping kilometers to the relative safety of government-held territory.

Refugees described how Bosnian Serb soldiers separated men from their families and took them to a football stadium in the nearby Serb-held town of Bratunac.

"It is ethnic cleansing ... " UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko said in Sarajevo.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimated 14,000 refugees had crossed frontlines into government-held territory by Thursday afternoon, leaving as many as 23,000 still in the area of a Dutch UN peacekeeping base near Srebrenica town which Serbs captured Tuesday. Food at the Dutch base was about to run out but a UNHCR convoy, held up at the border with Serbia, was eventually given permission by the Bosnian Serbs to proceed to Srebrenica.

Convoys of the Red Cross and the aid agency M?decins Sans Fronti?res were being denied access however, relief workers said.

"The Bosnian Serbs stated that they will treat civilians according to the Geneva Convention. Forcing women, children and wounded to walk across confrontation lines is hardly what the authors of the Geneva Convention envisaged," Ivanko said.

The exodus from Srebrenica represented one of the largest single movements of people in the three-year war and may spell the end of UN involvement in Bosnia.

"I think the UN effort in Bosnia, at least in the context of UNPROFOR [UN Protection Force], is finished," Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey said.

"Some [refugees] have ended off the road and been murdered," he added.

U.S. President Bill Clinton said in Washington the UN mission in Bosnia was under threat.

"Unless we can restore the integrity of the UN mission, obviously its days will be numbered," he told reporters.

"This is the worst performance by the democracies since the late 1930s."

Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic said in Sarajevo he feared the small enclave of Zepa and its 15,000 people would be captured next by Bosnian Serbs who refuse to be part of an independent Bosnia and want to join their land with Serbia.

The UN has said a 10,000-strong rapid reaction force designed to beef up the 22,000 troops of UNPROFOR is still not ready to intervene in Srebrenica.

France on Thursday demanded a limited international military action to put a halt to attacks on Moslem enclaves and made it clear it would otherwise consider withdrawing its troops.

"If such a military action proved impossible, France would be bound ... to draw all the relevant consequences," said a statement issued by French President Jacques Chirac's office in a clear hint at withdrawal.

The UN Security Council on Wednesday passed a resolution demanding Bosnian Serbs withdraw from Srebrenica, leaving it up to the secretary general to use "all resources available to him" to achieve such a withdrawal.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali said Thursday he had not yet decided whether force should be used and France has received little backing for an earlier proposal Wednesday to use force. Russia joined the criticism Thursday.

"The way out is not ... an increase in force which would have very negative consequences," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Georgy Karasin in Moscow.

Karasin backed continued negotiations as a route to peace.

European Union mediator Carl Bildt is to hold another round of talks in Belgrade on Friday in the hope of persuading Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to recognize Bosnia in exchange for the lifting of sanctions on Serbia.