'Let aid through or else': Bush refuses to exclude military action as France prepares to send

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IN HIS MOST forceful statement on the war in Bosnia, President George Bush said yesterday that emergency relief must get through to Sarajevo 'no matter what it takes'.

There was a pointed refusal to exclude the possibility of military action. Asked whether there might be air strikes to knock out the Serbian artillery surrounding Sarajevo, James Baker, the US Secretary of State, - speaking at the summit in Helsinki of the Conference on Security and Co- operation in Europe (CSCE) - said that the US President 'hasn't ruled anything out'.

Meanwhile, France announced that it was ready to deploy 700 troops in Sarajevo within the next two weeks, and that a squadron of helicopters would be sent to the Bosnian capital to help to provide a lifeline for relief supplies.

At the same time, officials announced that Nato would link up with the Western European Union (WEU), in effect the defence arm of the European Community, in a joint operation to ensure aid gets through to the former Yugoslav republic.

Mr Bush issued his call to the plenary session of the CSCE summit after a private meeting with the Bosnian leader, Alija Izetbegovic. The latter appealed to Mr Bush for immediate Western action to confiscate or destroy Serbian arms used to seize Bosnian territory. If the weapons the Serbs had inherited from the Yugoslav national army could not be brought under international control, 'I requested military force be used to destroy these weapons,' the Bosnian leader said.

Mr Baker announced that Nato foreign ministers would hold an emergency meeting this morning on the summit sidelines. The talks will take place immediately after a similar emergency session of the Western European Union, which will discuss options to reinforce action in and around Bosnia.

Enzo Scotti, the foreign minister of Italy, which holds the WEU presidency, declared: 'The WEU wants to link up with Nato . . . it will pave the way for future links.' Mr Scotti said he had already, over lunch on the margins of the summit, held talks about such co- operation with Manfred Worner, the Nato Secretary-General.

The Americans had privately voiced irritation over the past two days about the French-led initiative to hold the WEU emergency session in Helsinki, which it saw as further indication that the French were seeking to undermine Nato's role. WEU foreign ministers are to agree on two moves: naval monitoring of activity in the Adriatic to enforce the existing embargo; and convoys to safeguard humanitarian aid to Sarajevo and other parts of Bosnia.

President Bush's speech to the plenary session was in stark contrast to his stated reluctance to send American troops into the Bosnian conflict. 'If our CSCE community is to have real meaning in this new world, let us be in one mind about our immediate aims. First, we should see to it that relief supplies get through no matter what it takes. And second, we should see to it that the United Nations sanctions are respected no matter what it takes. And third, we should do all we can to prevent this conflict from spreading. And fourth, let us call with one voice for the guns to fall silent through a ceasefire on all fronts,' the President declared.

Mr Bush, however, was non- committal over the earlier plea from the Bosnian leader to destroy Serbian weaponry.

The French became the subject of some controversy with their decision to send helicopters to Sarajevo, as a UN spokesman expressed scepticism about the wisdom of the move. This was after Louis MacKenzie, the commander of the Canadian peace- keeping forces at Sarajevo, said conditions were not favourable and such deployment was fraught with risk to his own troops. The French defended the move, saying it had been agreed with Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary- General. French sources said there was a possibility that Roland Dumas, the French Foreign Minister, would travel to New York within days to seek a new UN resolution.

It was announced at the summit that some 100 blue-helmet observers would to be sent the enclave of Nagorny Karabakh, disputed between Armenia and Azerbaijan, where more than 2,000 people have been killed in four years of fighting. Some officials said, however, that the dispatching of the observers was conditional upon a ceasefire being ensured first.

The summit declaration is to be adopted by the 52 members today, less than two years after the CSCE met in Paris and adopted, with much fanfare, a charter which it claimed would make the world a safer place. The conference suspended Yugoslavia, which now includes only Serbia and Montenegro, for 100 days, a period of grace that Belgrade had sought.

Further reports, page 10

A conflagration, page 21