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Ban issued on flights in Bosnia

The U.N. Security Council ordered a halt to military flights over Bosnia on Friday amid mounting international concern over attacks by Serbian warplanes on Muslim towns.

But contrary to the initial wishes of the Bush administration, the resolution stopped short of authorizing the use of combat aircraft to enforce the ban. Instead, it allows for observers to be placed at airports throughout former Yugoslavia to monitor Serb fighter aircraft.

Britain and France, which have peacekeeping troops in the former Yugoslavia, opposed the U.S. push for direct enforcement of the ban, fearing that any aerial clash could prompt Serb retaliation against their ground troops.

Friday's resolution covers all military flights, except for U.N. and humanitarian missions. It calls on countries to provide "technical monitoring and other facilities" to ensure compliance. Diplomats said this refers, among other things, to possible use of AWACS surveillance aircraft.

The AWACS under consideration are under NATO command in Germany, and their use would likely involve U.S. Air Force personnel in the conflict for the first time, officials said. However, the planes would be able to monitor air traffic without flying directly over the former Yugoslavia.

The "no-fly zone" over Bosnia was supported by 14 of the council's 15 members with China abstaining. The resolution said the council would "consider urgently the further measures" for enforcement if the ban is violated.

"It is up to the parties themselves" to observe the ban, said U.S. Ambassador Edward Perkins. "If, however, the current resolution is violated, my government will move to seek adoption . . . of a further resolution mandating enforcement" of the zone.

Perkins said his vote in favor of the resolution reflected the U.S. view that the council had committed itself to authorize military enforcement of the flight ban if violations occur.

British Ambassador Sir David Hannay commended the two-stage approach to the flight ban. "Nobody wants to have to use force in circumstances like that if it is at all possible," Hannay said. Should the ban be violated, he said, "we'll have to think again."

Even as the ban was approved, however, Serb warplanes bombed the northern Bosnian town of Gradacac, Croatia radio said. It said air attacks also were carried out in the northern town of Jajce, which has been without power and water for three months.

Elsewhere in Bosnia, rebel Serbs launched a new round of ethnic purges in the north and drove thousands of Muslims and Croats from their homes, U.N. officials said.

The Serbs have about 40 aircraft left by the Yugoslav army when it withdrew from Bosnia earlier this year. Bosnia's Muslim-led defense forces, who have lost more than two-thirds of the republic to Serbs, have no aircraft.