WASHINGTON — The Security Council approved Monday a major expansion of U.N. peacekeeping forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina and endorsed a recommendation by Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali that the troops be allowed to use force if they are attacked or impeded.
Passing a new resolution, the 15-member body voted to increase the existing peacekeeping force in the former Yugoslav republic by as many as 6,000 troops--up from the 1,500 now stationed there--to help protect humanitarian relief convoys and Muslims and Croats released from Serbian detention camps.
The vote was 12 to 0, with China, India and Zimbabwe abstaining over language in the resolution that cited legal authority for using military force. China's U.N. ambassador, Li Daoyo, said his government fears "the risk of plunging into armed conflict."
U.N. forces in Bosnia are already authorized to fire back if they come under attack. But the new resolution expands that right beyond self-defense and gives U.N. commanders on the scene the discretion to fire at combatants preventing peacekeepers from carrying out their missions.
Under the resolution, the extra troops would be provided by Canada, France, Britain and a group of Western European countries. The United States would contribute air and naval support but would not send American ground units.
At Boutros-Ghali's request, the operations would be financed by the participating governments themselves and not by the United Nations. The secretary general said the United Nations' coffers are already stretched by other peacekeeping duties.
The council stopped short of imposing a "no-fly" zone over the area for Serbian military aircraft, a move sought by the United States, Britain and France following a recommendation by a London conference on the Bosnian situation last month.
Diplomatic sources said consideration of the no-fly zone proposal was put off after those three nations disagreed on how to enforce the flight restrictions--whether to use allied aircraft or ground troops. The issue could come up later this week.
The imposition of a no-fly zone would be designed to prevent Serbian aircraft from shadowing allied relief flights to gain cover for their own operations in support of Serbian combatants and to minimize the risk that ground forces will fire at the humanitarian airlift.
An Italian relief plane crashed Sept. 3 as it was flying supplies to Sarajevo, and eyewitness accounts suggest that it was downed by a ground-to-air missile.
The developments at the United Nations came as Serbian forces in Bosnia, ending a three-day lull in the fighting, launched a heavy artillery attack on Sarajevo, firing weapons that U.N. commanders said had been hidden from international observers.
The bombardment, the worst in the besieged city in two weeks, came just two days after the leader of the separatist Serbian faction, Radovan Karadzic, announced that his forces had turned over their heavy weapons to U.N. supervision.
French Col. Armil Davout, deputy commander of the U.N. peace mission in Sarajevo, said Karadzic was lying when he said all his heavy artillery was under the eyes of the U.N. observers, according to the Associated Press.
Karadzic also had guaranteed that his artillery batteries would not fire unless they were attacked, but U.N. sources said that Serbian long-range guns went into action Monday morning without having been threatened, the AP reported.
Meanwhile, the renewed fighting led both Karadzic and Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, a Muslim, to threaten to boycott the peace talks scheduled to begin Friday in Geneva.
The self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb Republic also reported that Karadzic threatened to withdraw from the talks if the allies imposed the no-fly zone over Bosnian air space. It said that grounding Serbian planes, as the proposal being discussed at the United Nations seeks, "would disrupt the strategic balance" in the area.
The resolution expanding the size of the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina is a response to an appeal from Boutros-Ghali, who called for extra forces to accompany U.N. land convoys leading refugees from Serb detention camps.
Under the proposal, Britain, France and Canada are expected to deploy battalion-sized ground forces in Bosnia, while Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway will send smaller units.
The United States has said repeatedly that it will only provide air and sea support. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said in a speech Monday that that would include planes from the aircraft carrier Saratoga, now deployed in the Adriatic Sea.
It was not immediately clear how quickly the allies might be able to resolve their differences over the proposed no-fly zone.