Military chiefs in debate on use of force

Military chiefs from the United States, Britain and France gathered in London yesterday to consider whether to use force to protect the remaining UN "safe havens" in Bosnia.

France has proposed sending a joint military force - including American and German troops - to reinforce UN peace-keepers. The French Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Jacques Lanxade, was to present the French plan, which includes "precise proposals to reinforce, through limited military action, the security zones," a defence spokesman said in Paris.

Michael Portillo, the Secretary of State for Defence, said in Split, where he visited the British logistical base for Bosnia, "all military options are being addressed".

President Jacques Chirac called on the Western democracies yesterday to ''learn the lessons of history'' and join France in halting the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. Warning that ''the values on which our democracies are founded are being flouted in Europe before our very eyes", he renewed his appeal to France's allies ''not to accept the role of passive onlookers or accomplices to the unacceptable''.

It was becoming apparent in Washington that direct US military involvement is now bound to increase. The US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, confirmed the US would be ready to provide logistical support - perhaps in the form of helicopters - to help strengthen UN's protection of surviving Bosnian Muslim "safe zones".

Two UN helicopters flying over Kakanj on the route north-west to Tuzla were fired on by Bosnian government forces. Eyewitnesses said the helicopters were flying low, painted white, and clearly marked. The attack on the UN helicopters underlines the low regard in which the UN is held by some elements of the Bosnian government forces.

Generals meet, page 8