Europe and US split over Bosnia: Allies at odds on use of troops to protect aid convoys

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BRITAIN and France yesterday resisted President George Bush's initiative for an immediate United Nations resolution that would clear the way for allied military forces to operate in Bosnia to ensure the delivery of humanitarian relief supplies to civilians.

A rival French plan to turn the UN peace-keeping force in Bosnia into a fighting force, capable of protecting aid convoys, was being touted instead, with reluctant British support. The disagreement between the European allies and the US threatened to jeopardise President Bush's plan for quick UN Security Council passage of a resolution authorising the use of force to deliver food and medicine to besieged Bosnia.

Mr Bush went public for the second time in two days yesterday, to get support for the US plan. 'I have a lot of options available to me and I will contemplate every one very seriously but in conjunction with the United Nations. So we are going to continue to press for the resolution that I hope will solve this problem,' he said.

But Mr Bush, who is under pressure at home to undertake a deeper military commitment to end the fighting in Bosnia, was quick to rule out that option. 'I do not want to see the United States bogged down in any way into some guerrilla warfare - we lived through that once,' he said, invoking the memory of Vietnam.

The US initiative came as further documentary evidence emerged about the UN's knowledge of Serbian atrocities and its failure to take action, apart from writing classified reports. An internal UN memorandum of 8 July on the Serbian policy of 'ethnic cleansing' states that 'a calculated strategy to 'cleanse' the area (around Bosanski Novi) of Muslims appears to have intensified beginning in May 1992'.

According to the memorandum 'house burnings, deportations, summary executions, shooting in the houses' were occurring in the villages just over the Croatian border from where the UN peacekeepers were based. 'In Bosanski Novi (which is in plain sight of the UN peace-keepers) the Military Police is reported to have its HQ. There are reports of brutal torture in the hotel.'

The memo reports witnesses saying that when the football stadium in Bosanski Novi becomes full with detainees 'the guards take some of them away to unknown destinations . . . Some witnesses report that in the first 15 days of May some 200 persons taken out of the stadium were shot dead near by.'

The UN has yet to take action against the Serbian forces, beyond the adoption of a Security Council resolution demanding international access to all detention centres and providing the International Red Cross with details of its reports.

The reports of brutality in concentration camps controlled by Serbian forces have provoked an outcry in the US, bringing up memories of the Nazi camps. President Bush needed to be seen to do something, diplomats concluded, and by pushing for a resolution at the UN he has achieved that aim.

In Sarajevo, the UN continued to play its hazardous game of negotiation with the warring parties in an attempt to ease conditions for nearly 400,000 trapped civilians. The deputy commander of the United Nations Protection Force, Lieutenant-General Philippe Morillon, said he had persuaded the opposing sides to open road corridors from the Adriatic coast to Sarajevo and from Sarajevo to the besieged city of Gorazde.

He also sounded optimistic about the prospects for reopening the airport to relief flights after a three-day closure and negotiating the repair of Sarajevo's water supply lines. However, renewed fighting soon after Gen Morillon spoke to journalists cut electricity to much of the city.

LONDON - John Major, speaking from Barcelona, said there was growing evidence of human rights abuses in Bosnia, which must be 'stopped speedily', writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, said the UN Human Rights Commission had been asked to meet in emergency session to launch an inquiry through a special intermediary.

Pressure for action was mounting yesterday from MPs of all parties and religious leaders.