EC's policy over Bosnia on edge of collapse: Germany urges lifting of Muslim arms embargo

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The Independent Online
EUROPE'S common policy for the former Yugoslavia all but collapsed yesterday, driven to the wall by a German demand to lift the arms embargo over Bosnia.

After heated discussions the 12 rejected Bonn's demand, opting instead for a commitment to provide more troops, which in practice no member state is prepared to deliver.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl, appealing to the EC's 'moral duty to protect the weakest,' declared: 'We cannot accept any settlement that leaves the Bosnian Muslims alone . . . at this point in time I believe the embargo must be lifted.'

Given the ever-deteriorating situation in Bosnia, his plea received some support, notably from Spain and the Netherlands; that would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago. 'I agree with Mr Kohl that if in the last resort we can do nothing to stop the fighting we will have to lift the embargo,' Felipe Gonzalez, the Spanish Prime Minister, said.

Britain remained adamant. 'Now is not the time to lift the embargo and adopt this counsel of despair. It would lead to even more bloodshed and jeopardise the chances of a negotiated settlement. The moral imperative is to stop the killing,' John Major said.

He was backed by France, whose President argued that lifting the embargo was a last resort that could and should be avoided by sending more troops and making good promises to protect the Muslims.

Francois Mitterrand added: 'The question is simple: will we give troops to the UN to protect the safe areas? If we are not prepared to do that we should tear up any declarations now and tell the Bosnian Muslims to defend themselves by their own means.'

In theory, the EC is still committed to a single Bosnia state.

While clearly distancing itself from the Serb-Croat plan which envisages the partition of Bosnia, the Community is urging the Muslims to return to the negotiating table.