Outlines of the new, long-awaited, US policy on Bosnia were revealed by the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, who said: 'The conflict may be far from our shores but certainly it is not distant from our concerns.'
The US is not proposing an immediate use of force but an intensification of diplomatic and economic pressures. Its ambassador to Nato, Reginald Bartholomew, will act as a special envoy to the peace negotiations, with a brief to amend the EC-UN proposals being sponsored by Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance. Mr Bartholomew will go to Moscow first.
Mr Christopher made clear that the US would be willing to deploy ground troops in the region as part of an international peace-keeping force, if an agreement is reached. He gave no figure, they could total 10,000.
America, he said, is 'prepared to use our military power to enforce the agreement'. Any decision to send troops would to cause anguish to many Americans, for whom memories of Vietnam remain vivid. But Mr Christopher added: 'This is a shared problem and it must be a shared burden.'
Speaking before the announcement, Mr Clinton said his administration was 'trying to find a way to do more'. Earlier yesterday, Mr Clinton telephoned the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, with details of his plan.
Mr Christopher said he remained unhappy with the Owen-Vance plan because it had not proved acceptable to all parties; any agreement would have to be consensual to stand any chance of being credible. The US, he added, would seek to harden up the enforcement provisions.
The Secretary of State conceded that he had no alternative proposal to put on the table. The US offered no new map to replace the Owen-Vance version which seeks to fracture Bosnia into 10 semi-autonomous regions.
Mr Vance and Lord Owen welcomed the initiative and said they were pleased that the US was ready to 'back their political commitment with a readiness to enforce a comprehensive settlement'. John Major, who is to meet President Bill Clinton for talks at the White House on 24 February, also expressed satisafction with the US announcement. 'The willingness of the US to participate in the implementation of a fair and workable agreement will give confidence, particularly to the Bosnian Muslims, that a lasting settlement is now a real prospect.'
The Bosnian President, Alija Izetbegovic, said he was pleased that the US had decided to join in diplomatic efforts to end the war.
While Washington has backed away from a proposal to relax selectively the arms embargo on former Yugoslavia in favour of Bosnian Muslims, Mr Christopher said a new effort would be made to push through a UN Security Council resolution to enforce the 'no-fly' zone over Bosnia.
Meanwhile, economic sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro should be 'considerably toughened', he said. Washington will also press for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal.
Mr Christopher also spoke of directly assisting humanitarian operations in the region, but said the US was still consulting with the allies on how this could be done.
One option could be to send US troops on a limited mission to help British and French soldiers protecting humanitarian supplies.
As many as 10 British mercenaries may have been killed in Bosnia in recent days, PA reports.
A BBC television report said mujahedin fighters supporting Muslim forces in Bosnia in what they believe is a holy war, are suspected of being responsible.
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