The Security Council voted unanimously Friday to start dispatching a 14,000-member peacekeeping force to Yugoslavia to monitor the cease-fire there and protect Croatia's Serbian minority until their future is settled.
The operation in Yugoslavia, already one of the biggest the United Nations has ever organized, will be followed by an even larger and more complex one next week when the council is expected to send military and civilian contingents to oversee the end of Cambodia's long civil war, disarm its rival factions, return refugees and organize free elections.
Initial estimates put the cost of those two missions at more than $3-billion, or more than four times the $700-million U.N. members were asked to pay for peacekeeping costs last year at a time when the organization already is owed nearly $1-billion by its membership in unpaid dues.
Agreement to send the force to Yugoslavia came after compromises were struck within the 15-member council in disputes over its peacekeeping powers as well as over the operation's $634-million annual cost, which Western members think is excessive.
As a result, only part of the force will be deployed at first, while the secretary-general asks the parties to the fighting to contribute toward the cost.
Under the U.N. peace plan, the 14,000 peacekeepers will ensure the security of about 14 Serbian minority enclaves in the breakaway republic of Croatia for at least a year until an overall political agreement is reached on the future of the Yugoslav federation.
But the United States, with support from other Western members, wanted to ensure that the Croatiangovernment of Franjo Tudjman, which has criticized the peace plan, had no legal basis for seeking the force's withdrawal before an agreement is reached.
As a result, it proposed deploying the force under the provisions of chapter seven of the U.N. Charter, which allows the council to issue mandatory orders and enforce them by economic blockades or military force.
The Serbian minority fears that as other countries recognize Croatia, Zagreb might try to remove the U.N. soldiers, leaving its members at the mercy of the Croatian majority.