Major backs Owen after sacking vote

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The Independent Online
THE EUROPEAN Parliament yesterday voted to dismiss Lord Owen as European Union mediator in Bosnia. The decision is not binding, but it showed a growing disenchantment with him and was a new blow to the credibility of EU policy.

The resolution said negotiators 'have achieved no results and persist in wanting to divide Bosnia-Herzegovina, though a member of the United Nations, along ethnic lines'.

It called for 'the nomination of a new EU negotiator with a proper mandate and a new strategy for exercising it'.

At Heathrow airport last night, Lord Owen said he would not resign. 'There's no question of it,' he said. 'I serve the foreign ministers of the European Union.'

The resolution was passed by a narrow majority, with most British representatives abstaining. 'It is wrong to shoot the messenger,' said Edward MacMillan Scott, Conservative MEP for York. 'He's playing a very difficult hand.' Hans van den Broek, the EU's foreign policy commissioner, backed Lord Owen. But he admitted the EU's policy had reached crisis point and suggested mediation efforts stop temporarily.

After the vote, John Major issued a statement of support for Lord Owen, saying: 'David Owen has not spared himself in the search for a peaceful settlement in Bosnia.

'He has worked unremittingly and courageously to try to help bring this about and he enjoys the full support of the British government.'

A Foreign Office spokesman added Britain's 'prime objective remains the search for a political settlement'. The European Parliament vote did not represent the full view of that body as many MEPs had not voted.