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U.N. chief backs dispatch of Yugoslavia peace force

The Security Council moved ahead Thursday with plans for its first peacekeeping operation on the European mainland, in which a 13,000-member international force will be sent to bolster the fragile cease-fire in Yugoslavia.

Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali secured the broad backing of the five permanent council members for his plan. Boutros-Ghali, acting on a proposal by his mediator in the area, Cyrus Vance, a former U.S. secretary of state, told council members the force should be sent for at least a year.

At a meeting with the representatives of Britain, France, the United States, China and Russia, Boutros-Ghali said he was still unsure that all factions in the Yugoslav war really wanted to preserve the cease-fire and cooperate with the peace plan, diplomats said.

But despite the risk that the peacekeepers might become embroiled in a shooting war between the breakaway Croatian state and its Serbian foes, the secretary-general argued that the United Nations must move ahead rapidly to strengthen the truce and allow Yugoslav factions to work out the political future at a peace conference planned in Brussels.

The representatives of the permanent members appeared to support the plan, diplomats said, although the last word rests with their governments.

By giving the peacekeeping force an initial yearlong mandate instead of the usual six months, the secretary-general argued, the council would signal its determination for compliance and would send a message to local leaders that they cannot expect the troops to withdraw before a political settlement is in place.

Authorizing deployment of the peacekeeping force for only six months, diplomats said, would arouse fears among the Serbian minority that Croatia might demand the withdrawal of the force before a agreement is complete, leaving the Serbs unprotected.

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman has said in recent interviews that he wants the force to stay only six months.

In the letter he sent Wednesday endorsing the U.N. plan, he spoke of "technical questions" regarding the rights of the peacekeepers in Serbian enclaves of Croatia after the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army withdraws.

The senior official in charge of peacekeeping operations, Undersecretary-General Marrack Goulding, told representatives of 31 countries being invited to contribute to the force that he now favors a total force of 13,000, the second-largest ever deployed.

The largest force, 20,000 troops, was sent in 1960 to the newly independent Congo, now Zaire. This would be the first peacekeeping force to be sent to the European mainland. There is a small force on Cyprus.

The initial plan was for 10,000 soldiers and 500 police monitors, at a cost between $350-million and $400-million for a year.

The permanent council members pay just over half the cost of peacekeeping operations, with the United States picking up 30 percent of the bill.

Reuters lists the nations invited to form the force as: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Luxembourg, Malta, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Britain and Venezuela. An Indian general is being considered to head the force.