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U.N. Ousts Serb-Dominated Yugoslavia in Historic Vote

September 23, 1992|NORMAN KEMPSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly expelled the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav federation Tuesday, brushing aside an impassioned plea from Prime Minister Milan Panic that his government deserved membership "at least as well as the countries and governments that many of you represent."

The 127 to 6 vote with 26 members abstaining marked the first time in U.N. history that a country was voted out, although South Africa has been suspended because of its apartheid policies.

"Do not undermine a man of peace and peace-loving Yugoslavs," Panic, a Southern California businessman, said before the vote. He argued that his government was doing everything it could to end the ethnic Balkan war.

But most of the other General Assembly members concluded that even if Panic were sincere in striving for peace, he has been unable to control the Serbian militants laying waste to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The no votes were Tanzania, Yugoslavia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Kenya. Twenty U.N. members did not vote.

Just hours before the vote, the Bush Administration gave the United Nations a report intended to prepare the way for war-crimes trials.

The report detailed more than 50 incidents of murder, torture, wanton destruction of property and other atrocities committed in the last six months in republics that once made up Yugoslavia.

Although all sides in the complex ethnic war there were cited, the U.S. report indicated that most of the crimes were committed by Bosnian Serb militias as "part of a systematic campaign toward a single objective--the creation of an ethnically 'pure' state."

Some victims were named in the document, but few of the perpetrators were identified.

The General Assembly adopted a resolution, originally proposed by the 12-nation European Community, ruling that the new Yugoslav federation--made up only of Serbia and its tiny ally Montenegro--has no right to continue to hold the seat of the six-republic Yugoslavia that had been a charter member of the United Nations.

Three former Yugoslav republics--Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia--have already been admitted to the United Nations as independent states.

Panic complained that officials of the United States and other Western governments had undercut his authority by meeting with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. The United States and its allies generally support Panic's efforts to end the fighting but believe he has no real power to rein in Milosevic and his allies among Bosnian Serbs.

The resolution permits Serbia and Montenegro to apply for U.N. membership either singly or as a federation, but diplomats made it clear that they will not be admitted as long as Serbian aggression continues in Bosnia.

Muhamed Sacribey, Bosnia's U.N. representative, ridiculed Panic's claim to be striving for peace.

"It is not true that the aggression has stopped in our country," he said.

The American report on atrocities could not have come at a worse time for Panic. It is the first submitted in response to a Security Council resolution calling for all nations to collect "substantiated information" about war crimes.

Under U.N. procedures, the American information must be submitted to a commission for verification and possible identification of those who committed the wrongs. Once that is done, the United Nations could establish special tribunals for prosecution.

But a senior State Department official said that trials could be conducted only if "we have somebody in custody." That has not happened yet.

The report contained information collected by the State Department, congressional investigators and news organizations. The media accounts, officials said, were included only if the reporter claimed to be an eyewitness.

Attempts to identify a guilty party were rare, but the report did cite an Aug. 25 incident in which the bodies of 25 men, believed to have been prisoners, were discovered with their throats cut at a detention camp "operated by the Serbian army . . . under Gen. Ratho Mladic."

In a related incident, Acting Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger said Tuesday that the Bush Administration is trying to determine whether 200 Muslim men and boys were killed by Serbian police in Bosnia-Herzegovina the day they were due to be released from a detention camp.

Reports in the Washington Post and on National Public Radio said the Muslims apparently were shot at close range on Aug. 21 at a ravine near Travnik. A Bosnian Muslim who claims to have survived the alleged attack said Tuesday in Zagreb, Croatia, that he knows of only one other survivor.

"We're trying to pursue the report and, obviously, we will hold a reaction until we know whether it's true or not," Eagleburger told reporters before starting a private meeting with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman.

Regarding the expulsion of Yugoslavia from the United Nations, Eagleburger said it is time to "make clear to Belgrade that if they don't improve their performance, the rest of the world will have nothing to do with them."

At the same time, he said, Washington believes that Panic "has worked hard to try to change some of the worst elements of the conduct of the Serbs."

But, Eagleburger added, Panic "hasn't been successful." The expulsion, he said, is based on actions, not words.

A senior British diplomat said Panic is engaged in a power struggle with Milosevic "and he deserves a bit of support." But the diplomat noted that Panic must show results from his peace efforts.

"If he is successful, he should be readmitted to the United Nations as a new entity," the diplomat said. "We've got to support him on that ground and salute him if he wins."

Earlier Tuesday, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic demanded that the international community either protect his government from attacks by Serbian militias or lift the arms embargo to permit the Muslim Slavic population to defend itself.

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