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U.N. General Assembly Votes to Lift Bosnia Arms Ban : Balkans: But only the Security Council has enforcement powers. Just a third of its members cast ballots for the measure.


UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly passed a U.S.-endorsed resolution Thursday calling for the lifting of the arms embargo against Bosnia-Herzegovina in six months, but the vote only exposed the weakness of the American position.

The General Assembly has no powers of enforcement, and its resolution amounts only to a recommendation that the Security Council, which does have such powers, lift the ban. Despite a vote of 97 to 0 with 61 abstentions, the balloting made it clear that an American anti-embargo resolution now before the Security Council would fail if put to a vote.

Only five members of the Security Council--Djibouti, Oman, Pakistan, Rwanda and the United States--voted for the General Assembly resolution. The 10 other members--Britain, France, Russia, China, Spain, the Czech Republic, Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria and New Zealand--abstained.

If that vote were repeated in the Security Council, the resolution would be defeated, since a resolution needs nine affirmative votes to pass. In view of this certain defeat, most U.N. diplomats believe that American Ambassador Madeleine Albright, who is the president of the Security Council this month, will refrain from submitting her resolution to a vote.

Abandonment of the measure would reflect the frayed state of U.S. policy on Bosnia. The Clinton Administration insists that more pressure must be put on the Bosnian Serbs to persuade them to accept a peace pact that would roll back some of their gains on the battlefield. But the Administration has failed to convince its most important allies to join in most of the pressure.

American frustration over this failure was made clear by Albright, who told the General Assembly, "Today the Bosnian Serbs are the lone holdout against peace. They alone have said 'no' to ending this barbarous war. Unfortunately, the consequences for them of their rejection have not been sufficiently grave. . . .

"Economic sanctions have not been tight enough," she went on, "enforcement of safe havens and exclusive zones has not been robust enough, and diplomatic pressures not united or consistent enough to bring the Bosnian Serbs to a new level of insight.

"We must do more to make them understand that settlement is their best and only option."

Albright's plea did not sway America's European allies. Most do not take the Administration's anti-embargo campaign very seriously because they know it has been forced upon the White House by Congress. Under a law passed in the last session, the United States was forced to submit the resolution to the Security Council.

If the resolution is not passed by Nov. 15, the legislation prohibits the Administration from using federal funds to enforce the embargo.

German Ambassador Detlev Graf zu Rantzau, speaking on behalf of the European Union, told the General Assembly that its 12 members abstained because they were "seriously concerned by the consequences of lifting the arms embargo." Three members of the union sit on the Security Council.

"We consider that a political settlement should be pursued until all avenues are exhausted," Graf zu Rantzau said. "That stage has not been reached."

In an impassioned speech to the General Assembly, Bosnian Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey defied the threat of Britain and France to withdraw their peacekeepers from the U.N. mission in Bosnia if the ban is lifted. The British and French contend that otherwise their troops would be too easily exposed to retaliation from Bosnian Serb forces.

"If given the option between the continuing role of (U.N. peacekeepers) and the effective lifting of the arms embargo on our government," he said, "we choose the option of directly addressing the continuing root causes and aggression by the lifting of the arms embargo."

Sacirbey also painted a lurid picture of Srebrenica, the Muslim enclave that had been declared a "safe haven" by the United Nations more than a year ago. He accused the Serbs of preventing "essential hygiene (products) and nutrients necessary for survival" from reaching the enclave. Those in the safe area are being denied salt, soap and detergent, he said.

As a result of this "new technique of 'ethnic cleansing' and slow-motion murder," Sacirbey said, "the civilians are suffering from horrendous diseases not lately seen in civilization."

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