TUE, 21 NOV 1995 23:16:51 GMTwritten on : 31.10.1995
Nowadays, there are 50 officials of UNPROFOR working in Belgrade in an institution which is has the character of a Communications Office. What formerly used to be the United Nations Protection Forces, now are reduced to the UNPROFOR in Bosnia and the UNCRO in Croatia. In Belgrade, the UNPROFOR was literally brought down to just a Communications Office. Concerning the operation of the Office, its spokeswoman Susan Manuel says that the Office does not have the mandate of a mission, so it has no characteristics of such a mandate either. By this she primarily implies the privileges United Nations missions have in countries where they are present with a mandate. In Croatia, for instance, they neither pay road tolls, nor fines for speeding, which is not the case in Yugoslavia. Duties of the UNPPROFOR in Belgrade are strictly separated from the duties of all other offices installed by the United Nations in this space. Observers of the Conference on Former Yugoslavia are at the borders, and there is a special Mission for Implementation of the Sanctions which also monitors the borders of present Yugoslavia for its own purposes. And it has its own spokesman. There is no functional link between these two missions and the UNPROFOR Office in Belgrade. Both at the time it was more actively engaged in Belgrade and now, the UNPROFOR contacted the media through organized press conferences held most frequently by its spokesmen. Yugoslav and foreign journalists could also get up-dated printed information in the UNPROFOR Office in Belgrade, as well as all documents and all Security Council Resolutions which referred to the Yugoslav crisis, in English and in Serbo-Croat language. And yet, in Belgrade, it was not easy to get exclusive answers to certain questions which referred directly to operations of UNPROFOR members in the field, where war operations took place at the time. UNPROFOR officials avoided such conversations. Such information were issued either by the commanders or their spokesmen in the field, or answers had to be sought in the UNPROFOR Headquarters located in Zagreb. Susan Manuel says that so far - and she is in Belgrade for more than a month - she has not felt any bureaucratic resistance of the authorities to the UNPROFOR Office. Since they are not members of a mission with a mandate, UN officials must pay for their visas for staying in Yugoslavia. Susan Manuel is aware that the significance of the UNPROFOR Office in Belgrade is diminishing, so she brings the comparison that her predecessors had much more to say down to the proportionally greater significance the UNPROFOR had in the beginning of the conflict. In a short time she has spent in Yugoslavia, she has had no bad experiences. She had expected a different atmosphere, and she was welcomed, as she says, warmly. She believes that citizens of Belgrade like international contacts and political discussions and disputes. She has not noticed that they project all their frustrations on her as the representative of the United Nations, nor that they seek causes for their troubles in the world organization. Susan Manuel lives in the exclusive part of Belgrade Dedinje in a house across the street from that belonging to general Momcilo Perisic, Commander of the Army of Yugoslavia. She rented a house with a garage because she was immediately informed about a major problem in Belgrade - that cars with UN licence plates are often stolen. That is why vehicles which are not in a garage are kept on the parking lot of the Hotel "Jugoslavija". From talks with the other officials in the UNPROFOR Office, Ms Manuel also learnt that they liked staying in Belgrade which they believed was a true metropolis. To a question why spokesmen of the UNPROFOR in Belgrade change so often, Susan Manuel answers that it is probably a matter of a national representation, that an organization such as the United Nations has to take into account.