Allies try to revive Bosnia policy

Britain and France will launch an effort today to rescue the rapidly disintegrating international policy towards Bosnia, after an effective breakdown of trust and political co-ordination between Europe and the United States.

A meeting of the contact group on the former Yugoslavia in London yesterday proved unable to resolve the dilemma posed by the US decision to abandon enforcement of the arms embargo against the Bosnian Muslims. Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, is to meet his French and Russian counterparts in Paris today in an attempt to keep the Russians from staging an outright break with the rest of the alliance. The US move has caused outrage in Moscow. Sympathy for the Serbs could force the Russian government to enter into its first open conflict on a major issue with the US at the UN Security Council since the end of the Cold War.

Intensified fighting around the Muslim enclave of Bihac raised the stakes as Bosnian Serbs showed signs of retaking some of the ground recently captured by forces of Bosnia's Muslim-led government. Shellfire also hit Sarajevo, damaging the presidency building and gunmen fired into the US ambassador's rooms at a hotel.

Such incidents will increase pressure in the US for open help for the Muslims. In Paris, Alain Juppe, the French Foreign Minister, and his Russian counterpart, Andrei Kozyrev, called on the US ``to clarify the situation'' left by its unilateral withdrawal from the UN effort to blockade weapons shipments to all sides.

The contact group - Britain, France, the US, Russia and Germany - has hitherto been the chosen forum for deciding policy. Although the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, has said the US wants to keep the group going, some European diplomats doubt the value of the exercise.

Officials in London and Paris are also worried about the potential dangers for the structure of the entire North Atlantic security system. The subject is certain to be discussed at today's Anglo-French summit in Chartres between John Major and French Premier Edouard Balladur.

Mr Hurd went out of his way to assure the Commons of the solidity of the transatlantic alliance. And on French TV, he said the US and its European allies had averted a crisis over the lifting of the embargo. Mr Hurd also said the US was not supplying arms to the Muslims.

The US last night denied reports that the CIA was covertly training the Muslims.

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