Clinton prepares for decision on military action in Bosnia

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The Independent Online
WASHINGTON - Amid growing restlessness within his administration over Western policy towards Bosnia, President Bill Clinton signalled yesterday that a decision on possible military action against Serbia is likely within days, writes David Usborne.

However, the President, giving only his second formal White House press conference since taking office in January, remained hopeful that any initiative would be agreed jointly with America's allies, notably Britain and France. 'I do not think we should act alone,' he said. There have been signs of a mutiny over Bosnian policy within the State Department, with senior officials responsible for the Balkans writing to the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, urging military action to curb Serbian aggression. Mr Christopher has argued against.

According to the New York Times, which first reported the letter, the US representative to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, has sent a memo to the President asking him to support military action. Mr Clinton confirmed the note existed but would not comment on its contents.

The President's dilemma was illustrated in his answers yesterday. He repeatedly emphasised that the Serbs' action was unacceptable. Explaining his desire to take fresh action, he declared: 'We are, after all, the world's own superpower and we do have to lead the world.'

However, he also spelt out the difficulties in implementing either of two prime options under discussion: allowing the Bosnian Muslims to have arms or attempting air strikes against the Serbian attackers. He specifically referred to British and French worries about possible retaliation against troops on the ground.

Saying that consultations between the allies on what to do should come to a conclusion within the 'next several days,' the President acknowledged that US policy since he took office has not had sufficient effect. He said several options for action were being discussed but ruled out the deployment of ground troops.

Meanwhile, a Bosnian Serb army officer said yesterday that Serbian forces would fire on Srebrenica if provoked, and warned United Nation's Canadian peace-keepers there to stay out of the way if that happened.