Berserkistan Navigator Boutros-Ghali Calls for
More UN Troops in
Eastern Slavonia

By Evelyn Leopold

Boutros Boutros-Ghali UNITED NATIONS, June 28 (Reuters) - Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has recommended that the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Croatia's Eastern Slavonia region be extended until January 15.

The United Nations has more than 5,000 troops, police and civilians in the region and has set up an administration to help rebuild the area's shattered economy and initiate confidence-building measures between Serbs and Croats.

Eastern Slavonia and the neighbouring areas of Baranja and western Sirmium are the last regions in Croatia still under Serb control and are scheduled to return to Zagreb's authority sometime in 1997. Boutros-Ghali made his proposals in a report to the Security Council on Thursday.

The mandate for the U.N. Transitional Authority in Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES), led by American diplomat Jacques Klein, expires on July 30.

The force will probably be extended again in January for another six months before Croatia takes full control.

Eastern Slavonia, once home to Croatiam Serb, Hungarian, and other communities, experienced bloody fighting during the Balkan war in 1991 when Serbs rebelled against Croatian independence and the Danube town of Vukovar was devastated in hand to hand combat.

Boutros-Ghali, in the report, said said the operation in less than six months had been highly successful in removing heavy weapons, driving Serbs militia from oil fields, training local police, facilitating family reunions and at times preventing natural resources, such as timber, from being stolen and sold abroad.

But he said the return of refugees to their homes was "among the most daunting" tasks ahead. He pointed out that thousands of Croatian residents, who fled to other parts of the country in 1991, were waiting to come back. At the same time, Serbs who fled to the enclave to escape Zagreb's successful 1995 offensive to recapture neighbouring Serb separatist regions, wanted to go home also.

"The work of enabling people to go back to their homes is not going to be easy, not least because of the danger posed by mines and unexploded ordnance, the destruction of housing and infrastructure and the urgent need to rebuild or repair houses before the onset of winter," he said.

Serb combatants last week completed demilitarization, which included surrendering uniforms and heavy weapons from the area. The report said this included 93 tanks, 11 armoured personnel carries, 35 anti-tank systems, 107 artillery pieces, 123 mortars and 42 anti-aircraft guns.

But few small arms were surrendered because of the "anxiety felt by some residents about their long-term security." UNTAES therefore wants the Serbs to register the arms and get permits for them. The region, once rich in agriculture, is facing economic disaster, with unemployment about 40-50 percent. The report appealed for funds, saying that UNTAES must have its own budget to guarantee salaries for some local administrators.

"Failure to pay salaries in the near future may result in the rapid depletion of public services and in a general breakdown of law and order."

To learn more...
Berserkistan, June 17 · Croatia Clarifies Serb Amnesty Law for Eastern Slavonia

History of Eastern Croatia
VukoWar, Where War Struck Slavonia Hardest
Basic Agreement on the District of Eastern Slavonia As signed November, 1995

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