'Give us weapons to fight': Bosnia's UN ambassador pleads for arms and for Western air strikes against Serbian guns

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The Independent Online
AS THE United Nations Security Council prepared to discuss a resolution authorising the limited use of force to protect aid convoys in the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia's UN ambassador yesterday pleaded for weapons for Bosnian fighters and for Western air strikes against Serbian gun emplacements.

'We have 50,000 people ready to fight in Sarajevo, but only weapons enough for 5,000,' Muhamed Sacirbey told the Independent. 'We don't want your boys to die in the Balkans, all we need is sophisticated air power to get at the gunners bombing our towns and the other side's air force which has used napalm and cluster bombs against civilians.'

He accused George Bush, John Major and Francois Mitterrand of trying to salve public opinion by dealing with the humanitarian aspects of the problem while failing to face up to the root cause, which he said was the policy of ethnic cleansing 'being directed from Belgrade'.

'This is a crime against humanity, not a diplomatic or political problem which will be solved on the negotiating table by Lord Carrington,' Mr Sacirbey said. 'It is a cancer that will not be stopped by deliveries of food and medicine.

'The crime of ethnic cleansing is a crime against all of us and needs to be dealt with by the force of international law,' Mr Sacirbey said. 'Just give us the weapons to defend ourselves and the air cover we need to knock out supply lines and gun emplacements.'

He accused the EC of failing to act on information about Serbian concentration camps when it first learnt of them. 'One has to question just what Lord Carrington knew (about the concentration camps) and why the information was not disclosed to the public.'

The Bosnian ambassador made the attack as the three Western permanent members of the Security Council, Britain, France and the US, were trying to bridge their differences on the UN resolution permitting the use of force to protect humanitarian convoys.

Earlier yesterday, the Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, reiterated Britain's continued resistance to a resolution authorising all necessary means to achieve peace, similar to that passed to cover the Iraq-Kuwait conflict. 'The main fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina is now being done by people who live there,' Mr Hurd said. 'It's quite a different situation.'

The Foreign Secretary said latest reports of British discussions, particularly with the Americans and French at the UN in New York, suggested agreement on authorising the use of force for humanitarian purposes was close.

He also called for a hardening of sanctions against Serbia, promising to send a delegation to Romania to discuss reports of oil and other goods entering the republic by the Danube. Douglas Hogg, the Foreign Office Minister, travels to Brussels today to discuss ways of tightening sanctions with the European Commission.

Mr Hurd said that help under the resolution, likely to be agreed in the next few days, would not depend on a ceasefire. It 'may well involve the use of force,' he said.

But asked which countries' forces would be involved, he replied: 'I think that the Americans and the Germans and we, ourselves, are very reluctant to commit ground troops for reasons which are familiar. But that has to be worked out - that has not yet been worked out.'

He denied Britain was saying 'something must be done' while ruling out specific and concrete options.

British inaction, meanwhile, received a further onslaught from Baroness Thatcher, who urged Western leaders to provide Bosnian fighters with weapons and to launch air attacks on military targets in Serbia, bombing bridges and supply lines.

Speaking from the United States on ABC television, the former prime minister said that she was not arguing for sending Western ground forces to help Bosnian defenders. But strikes by 'whoever has the best aircraft to do it accurately' would 'shake the Serbs, who have made a very calculated assessment that the West would not use force'.

Insisting that humanitarian aid was not enough, she said: 'That resolution must contain the means of taking things further, the force . . . to stop the aggression.'

Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, speaking from the Serb-initiated tour of detention camps in Bosnia, repeated demands for a higher British profile. He told BBC radio's The World This Weekend that force available under UN mandate should be used to ensure that the conflict was brought to 'a lower level of intensity', as well as for protecting humanitarian missions and 'safe havens' inside Bosnian territory.

(Photograph omitted)