Major pressed to send more British troops to Sarajevo

Click to follow
JOHN MAJOR was under growing pressure last night to answer an appeal by Lord Owen for more troops to secure the safety of Sarajevo. Lord Owen said on BBC radio: 'I think it would be absolutely scandalous if we cannot raise an effective implementation force for an overall settlement. We need that implementation force - it's really crucial.'

While expressing scepticism about the success of the Geneva talks, David Howell, the Tory chairman of the cross-party Foreign Affairs Select Committee, raised the prospect of forces being deployed 'for many years' to safeguard Sarajevo. The Bow Group, whose members include Lord Howe and Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, went further by supporting air strikes against Bosnian Serb forces.

Backing the deployment of more British troops to police the peace plan for Sarajevo, George Foulkes, a Labour spokesman, said: 'There should be the political will. We moved quickly to deal with the case of Irma. We should move equally quickly to support a peace agreement to ensure that we don't have more 'Irmas' in the future.'

The Government remains opposed to committing troops to enforce a peace plan, and is sceptical that a peace agreement would hold. Malcolm Rifkind, the Secretary of State for Defence, rejected Lord Owen's appeal to support an implementation force. 'We don't plan to do so, no,' he said.

Ministers believe there is no support among the public and Tory backbenchers for a deeper commitment by British forces. But there were signs of that changing, as Whitehall sources said Britain was looking to other countries to deploy more forces if a peace agreement is reached in Geneva.

UN officials in Medjugorje, near the embattled city of Mostar, said an aid convoy reached the city for the first time in two months yesterday. Medicine was delivered to the main hospital in the Croatian-held part of Mostar and negotiations were under way to send another convoy today into its Muslim east side, where 35,000 people are believed to be short of food and water. Bosnian Croat forces holding access routes to the city had barred all foreign relief efforts since early June.

In Geneva yesterday Ron Redmond, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said financial resources to cover humanitarian needs in Bosnia will run out by early October. 'The clock is ticking. If we don't get funding soon, some programmes will have to be curtailed severely and some even abandoned,' he added.

Mostar siege; talks gather pace, page 8