Bosnian Muslims have threatened to unleash a chemical cataclysm in Europe unless Serbs end their assault on the eastern enclave of Gorazde by this morning, Muslim-controlled Bosnian radio reported.
It said Hazim Sadic, commander of the mainly Muslim Bosnian 2nd Army in the northern stronghold of Tuzla, made the threat Saturday in a fax to the U.N. Security Council.
"We are warning you that we have drafted plans and prepared sufficient quantities of chlorine and other chemicals to neutralize all living forces in almost all Europe," the radio quoted the ultimatum as saying.
The exact amount of chlorine stored in Tuzla, which has a major chlorine-alkaline chemical complex, is a closely guarded secret. But analysts said any chlorine, if released at all, would probably be concentrated in a small area.
The message gave Serbs until 8 a.m. (2 a.m. EDT) today to halt their offensive on Gorazde, which was designated a "safe area" by the United Nations, and said a large force of U.N. troops and food aid for its people must enter the enclave by that time.
Bosnian authorities were not available for comment. Most members of the republic's presidency were scattered in diplomatic missions in Europe and Zagreb, Croatia.
But an official in the Cabinet of the chief of staff of Bosnia's mainly Muslim army, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Supreme Command backed Sadic.
A military analyst in Belgrade, the federal Yugoslav and Serbian capital, said it seemed improbable that the Muslims would endanger their own population in the Tuzla area, which has swollen to more than 100,000 with refugees.
"I understand they (in Tuzla) may be fed up, desperate, but I still believe this is just a bluff to jolt the world," the analyst said. But he added: "People are prepared to go to extremes in this crazy war."
A U.N. spokesman in New York, Juan Carlos Brandt, said U.N. authorities were aware of news reports of the threat but that so far no fax or other communication had been received.