Nato may send in 100,000 troops to cover aid convoys

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The Independent Online
WESTERN REVULSION at the mounting evidence of Serbian atrocities in Bosnia finally prompted the US and its allies yesterday to consider for the first time a military intervention in the Yugoslav crises.

Bombarded by irrefutable proof of the harsh regime in Serbian 'detention centres', senior Nato diplomats agreed last night in Brussels to draw up plans that could involve thousands of Western troops to ensure aid gets to people in the former Yugoslavia. If plans to be prepared over the coming days are put into practice, Nato could send in up to 100,000 troops.

The United States yesterday received the backing of the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros- Ghali, for an armed intervention in Bosnia by Nato or the Western European Union to protect humanitarian aid deliveries. The US also began consulting other members of the Security Council over a resolution calling for 'all necessary measures' to be taken to establish conditions for humanitarian aid. A similar resolution cleared the way for the Gulf war allies to expel Iraq from Kuwait.

Diplomatic sources confirmed yesterday that Nato political leaders would have to issue formal instructions before the plans could be implemented. Furthermore, troops would not be sent into the region until a mandate had been received from the UN Security Council.

Reports yesterday said that three different sets of plans would come under consideration, nominally to provide back-up for the UN sanctions against Serbia that are already in place.

One option would be to strengthen the instructions that have been given to the eight Nato ships patrolling the Adriatic in an attempt to ensure the enforcement of the economic sanctions. Until now, the naval forces have not been allowed to do more than ask passing shipping for its destination. In future, the Nato frigates and destroyers could be ordered to stop and search vessels they suspect of sanctions-busting.

A second option would be to get the Nato forces more deeply involved in monitoring the withdrawal of heavy weapons such as combat aircraft and artillery that have caused some of the worst damage to property and claimed the most lives. UN forces on the ground in Bosnia have described the monitored withdrawal of heavy weaponry as one of the most important steps necessary to secure peace in the area.

The third and most decisive option would be to use the forces to guarantee the delivery of food and medical aid. Some 12,000 men could be sent to force open the airport at Sarajevo. Nato forces could also be used to safeguard the delivery of aid by road from the Adriatic. Such an operation might involve not only 100,000 troops, but also extensive aid cover.

LONDON - John Major yesterday rejected continuing demands by Baroness Thatcher for armed intervention in Bosnia by British forces, writes Colin Brown.

The Prime Minister said it would put at risk

the lives of the civilians and the British forces.

The Prime Minister's office said last night: 'The UN is looking at a range of options for the humanitarian effort but we are not looking at military