''We all agreed that there could be no military solution, that the only answer is a negotiated solution,'' said Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, after meeting the Serbian leader. But he added: ''We don't feel that we have much time.''
Mr Milosevic's support could help to put pressure on the Bosnian Serbs to agree to a ceasefire. But time is short with the West increasingly uncertain about how long UN peace-keepers can remain in Bosnia and a continuing threat that the US Congress will lift the arms embargo on the Bosnian government.
In a private session, Mr Hurd and the French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, warned the Serbian President that if things do not improve in Bosnia, the UN peace-keepers are likely to be withdrawn. Mr Milosevic interrupted to say that this would be very dangerous. Today, Malcolm Rifkind, the Minister of Defence, is to fly to the Croatian port of Split for urgent talks with the UN commander in Bosnia, Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Rose, amid speculation that Mr Rifkind could be coming to consult General Rose about plans to pull the British contingent of several thousand peace-keepers out of Bosnia.
In Belgrade Mr Hurd said that the risks to the peace-keepers were ''completely unacceptable'' and said this made a rapid deal vital. Mr Juppe said: ''We wanted to stress the urgency, and I underline the word urgency, of a ceasefire and a cessation of violence.''
Newt Gingrich, the incoming Republican House Speaker, yesterday said UN troops should be withdrawn from Yugoslavia, and urged the training and arming of Bosnian forces and retaliation by US air power against any Serbian offensive. ''When we get to a serious problem, with serious violence, the United Nations is literally incompetent and kills people,'' he said.
After meeting Mr Hurd and Mr Juppe, Mr Milosevic said that he would step up efforts to persuade the Bosnian Serbs that their war was futile and that continued fighting would not help their position. Today the Serbian President is to meet dissident Bosnian Serbs opposed to Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, in an attempt to enlist their support.
Britain and France believe that assisting Mr Milosevic is the only way to broker peace. The US is deeply sceptical and Mr Hurd and Mr Juppe visited Belgrade in their capacity as national foreign ministers, not as representatives of the five-nation contact group. The US envoy, Charles Redman, is separately touring the region to bolster support for the new peace moves and further efforts will be made today at the Budapest summit of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
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