December 20, 1995
Web posted at: 8:45 a.m. EST (1329 GMT)
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- United Nations Security Council members are outraged over a Serbian letter denying responsibility for atrocities committed at the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.
The letter blames warring Bosnian Muslim army units for massacres and other war crimes attributed to the Bosnian Serbs.
The letter, sent Monday from Belgrade's U.N. representative, Vladislav Jovanovic, to the president of the Security Council, asks that the council delay voting on a resolution blaming Bosnian Serbs for massacres last summer in the U.N. protected towns of Srebrenica and Zepa.
The Security Council is considering a U.N. report claiming that as many as 5,500 Muslim civilians remain unaccounted for after Bosnian Serbs raided the two towns.
The letter says that "infighting" by Bosnian government forces was turned into a propaganda media campaign about mass killings.
U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright calls the letter preposterous and an insult to the intelligence of the Security Council. (255K AIFF sound or 255K WAV sound)
"The council has been ... involved in rather a peculiar exercise looking at an Orwellian letter from Mr. Jovanovic which is definitely propagating the big lie," she said. "We're all finding it a little surprising that this kind of a letter might arrive at this particular time when Mr. Jovanovic is trying to make the case that his country should be readmitted to the community of nations."
Sergey Lavrov, the president of the council, met privately with the Serb representative and told him the council found the letter "unacceptable."
The Serb diplomat told Lavrov that he was simply passing on the reaction of the Bosnian Serbs to council pleas for information about Srebrenica and that he did not feel it represented a challenge to the Dayton peace accords.
According to Lavrov, Jovanovic said the Bosnian Serbs felt they were supplying the international community with what they know about the tragedy at Srebrenica.
The letter says that authorities of the Srpska Republic (Serbia) allowed news agencies, ranging from CNN to CBS, to visit the area where alleged crimes took place. The Serbs say they were told "there was no substantial evidence to confirm the crimes, or mass graves in particular".
U.N. officials have insisted for months that they have been denied access to the suspected mass grave sites.
The council has been considering a draft resolution on the violations of human rights in the former Yugoslavia. It would call on authorities to allow war crimes tribunal members to have access to the mass grave sites.
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