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U.N. CALL FOR YUGO BLOCKADE IS AGAIN TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

SHARE U.N. CALL FOR YUGO BLOCKADE IS AGAIN TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

By a 13-0 vote, the U.N. Security Council this week voted to impose a naval blockade against Yugoslavia in an effort to put teeth into widely violated trade sanctions against Serbian aggression. Unfortunately, it's not likely to make much difference.

As with other efforts to deal with the Yugoslavia crisis, the U.N. action comes belatedly, lacks any real enforcement mechanism and depends in large part on countries that have no enthusiasm for the task.The U.N. vote calls for all states to take necessary steps to ensure that none of their exports are being diverted to Yugoslavia and empowers them to halt any shipping along the Danube River and the Adriatic Coast to verify the contents and destinations of vessels and to make sure they are not violating U.N. trade sanctions against Yugoslavia.

However, the resolution has a fatal weakness. It prods Bulgaria and Romania to patrol the Danube, which flows along their borders, but neither nation - occupied with its own post-communist domestic problems - seems enthusiastic.

The powers best equipped for the task - NATO and the Western European Union - both have five frigates in the Adriatic, but neither is empowered by the United Nations to stop and search vessels. It's just one more example of impotent U.N. half-measures in this tragic struggle.

As a result, the so-called naval blockade may be as leaky and ineffective as the sanctions themselves.

The U.N.-sponsored sanctions went into effect six months ago and supposedly prohibited countries from shipping a wide range of products to Serbia, including crude oil, petroleum, coal, steel, energy equipment, manufactured goods and even most foodstuffs.

Despite the embargo, Serbia has seized at least 70 percent of independent Bosnia and has continued to import essential goods. Shelves are stocked in the Yugoslavian capital of Belgrade, and cars crowd the streets. Long lines at gas stations have even shortened in recent weeks.

Apparently, shippers and truckers are pouring supplies into Yugoslavia while armed with documents showing the destination to be someplace else and being merely in transit through Yugoslavia.

Frustrated by this failure of sanctions, the United Nations opted for the blockade language. While taking this still-weak approach, the Security Council rejected stronger steps, such as demanding Serbian withdrawal from Bosnia or face the threat of U.N. military action.

Curiously, the council also refused to amend the arms embargo imposed in 1991 to prevent the war from spreading. All that embargo did was deny weapons to Croats and Bosnians, while leaving the well-armed Serbs free to use armaments from the heavily equipped Serbian-dominated Yugoslav army.

If the United Nations won't step in militarily to defend Bosnia, what possible rationale is there for refusing to let Bosnians have the weapons they need to defend themselves?

The U.N. role in the whole Yugoslavia tragedy has been mostly too little, too late and too indecisive.