Daily News, p.5A
19 July 1995.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — With the West considering using air power to defend two embattled Bosniak “safe areas,” the Bosnian Serb leader warned today that any foreign planes that try to aid the government-held enclaves will be shot down.
After days of pounding by Serb artillery, the fall of Zepa, the smaller of the two havens, was “imminent,” Yasushi Akashi [overly pro-Serbian Japanese diplomat], the U.N. special envoy to the former Yugoslavia, said today. “We are physically and militarily not capable of defending them.”
Pressure has been building on the United States and its allies to act since the Serbs overran the U.N.-declared “safe area” of Srebrenica last week and set their sights on Zepa and Gorazde. Their fall would give the Serbs a clean sweep of land between the capital, Srajevo, and the Serbian border.
France has not won support for its proposals to intervene militarily to protect Gorazde and break the Serb stranglehold on Sarajevo.
But Secretary of State Warren Christopher confirmed Tuesday that the Clinton administration is considering using U.S. attack and transport helicopters to shuttle a European “rapid reaction” force into Gorazde.
The United States, Christopher said, also is proposing “a more aggressive air campaign,” including letting NATO planes — some with U.S. Navy and Air Force pilots — bomb Serb targets in Bosnia without the current requirement that U.N. officials approve the strike.
Serb forces have penetrated to within a mile of Zepa, a tiny mountainous enclave. They pounded it with artillery on Tuesday, apparently to weaken it before an all-out attack.
Rebel leader Radovan Karadzic told the Bosniak-led government to surrender Gorazde immediately or watch it fall.
He also warned against any foreign involvement in Gorazde’s defense, saying his troops would “shoot down the helicopters or aircraft which protect the Bosnian army.”
“Whoever sides militarily with the Bosniaks must be aware that this would mean a way against the Serbs,” Karadzic said in a statement released early today.
U.N. officials said they took the threat seriously.