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NEWS ANALYSIS : Is U.N. Peacemaker an Appeaser? : Balkans: Lt. Gen. Michael Rose is accused of truckling to rebel Serbs to preserve his reputation. The Bosnian government wants him to resign.

October 27, 1994|CAROL J. WILLIAMS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — With aid flights grounded, fuel convoys blocked and weapons exclusion zones crawling with artillery, Lt. Gen. Michael Rose was watching his peace initiatives unravel when Bosnian Serbs launched another provocation.

A 12-minute rebel fusillade against a packed Sarajevo tram killed one passenger and wounded 11, shattering an anti-sniping accord Rose had tried to broker in the summer.

But rather than condemn the Oct. 8 assault that culminated two weeks of rebel harassment, Rose's office ordered U.N. public affairs workers to doctor the next day's "situation report" to suggest Bosnian government forces were behaving just as badly.

Added to the daily "sitrep," according to U.N. sources who help compile the unclassified cables, was an alleged eyewitness account by U.N. forces of Muslim-led government troops shooting at two Serbian civilians.

"What can you say when the guy in charge is deliberately falsifying (reports)?" one of the officials asked incredulously.

Reportedly fearful that his image as a forceful peacemaker will collapse with any dramatic outbreak of fighting, Rose--commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Bosnia--has embarked on what U.N. colleagues describe as a campaign of damage control by trying to appease the rebel forces.

They base their conclusions on his refusal to call in NATO air strikes to enforce the weapons exclusion zones around Sarajevo and Gorazde, or to punish Serbian gunmen for hijacking aid cargoes, holding U.N. fuel deliveries for ransom or even launching fatal attacks on U.N. convoys.

Senior officials with the U.N. Protection Force; the U.N. administrative team for Sarajevo, and the aid-supplying agency, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, complain that Rose and his senior officers are creating a potential explosion as they affix a veneer of containment on this roiling country ahead of their planned departure on Jan. 24. The Bosnian government on Tuesday demanded that the general resign.

"We are under a lot of pressure from (the U.N. Protection Force) to accept the Serbs' demands for more fuel," said an aid official whose humanitarian convoys were being held up by the rebels. He added that the push for payoffs to appease the rebels was coming from Rose.

Serbian gunmen have halted most deliveries of gasoline and winter supplies for U.N. forces and for displaced Bosnian citizens who rely on outside aid for their food and shelter.

Forces loyal to Bosnian Serb warlord Radovan Karadzic are demanding one-third of all fuel trucked across their siege lines and half of the stoves, wood, boots, plastic sheeting and other supplies intended to make the impending third winter at war bearable for homeless civilians.

Aid agencies already supply some fuel to the Serbs, as they do to the Bosnian government; the fuel powers bakeries, water-pumping facilities and generators at schools and hospitals.

But the Serbs have seen their military supplies reduced since Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic cut off the rebels in August in an apparent effort to force them to accept a negotiated peace.

Aid agency officials and diplomats say Bosnian Serb civilian services are suffering as a consequence, because the fuel the aid workers supply is being diverted to keep the rebel army rolling. But they balk at any gunpoint renegotiations and fear that Rose's eagerness to calm the rebels is shortsighted.

"We are squeezing the Bosnian Serbs with one hand and alleviating that squeeze with the other. It's perfectly schizophrenic," the aid official said.

A five-nation Contact Group mediating a peace settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina is trying to force Karadzic to accept a plan under which the elected government would be granted authority over 51% of the country while the rest would be ceded to the nationalist Serbs. Because Karadzic's forces already have conquered 72% and peace might lead to his indictment before a war crimes tribunal, the self-styled president of the rogue Bosnian Serb republic has refused to compromise and end the 30-month-old war.

The Contact Group's objective of pressuring the rebels to make peace has crashed head-on with Rose's strategy of face-saving containment. "The position of Gen. Rose doesn't allow for much pressure on the Serbs," complained a senior Western diplomat here.

Even officers at Rose's command center describe him as "agitated" and "depressed" by the steady unraveling of the accords that highlighted the early weeks of his tenure.

"He wants to get out in an atmosphere of success instead of failure, and in reality things are falling apart," the aid official said.

In attempts to be fair to the highly decorated general, the sources lauded his initial aggressiveness, which contributed to the rapid-fire succession of peace accords that marked the first two months of his one-year tenure.

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