Douglas Hogg, the Foreign Office Minister of State, followed threats made by France on Tuesday to withdraw some of its 6,000 UN troops in former Yugoslavia before winter. He said: 'Time is running out. . . The problem is an acute one. It is coming to a moment of crisis, and I do not know what the outcome will be.'
Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute in London, Mr Hogg said the Bosnian Muslims had to face two facts: 'First, and I acknowledge that this is extraordinarily unpalatable . . . they have to recognise military defeat when it stares them in the face, and that land has been seized by force, and there is going to have to be a degree of acquiescence in that.
'And the other thing that they've got to accept is that the military option has to be abandoned.' The minister added that these were very difficult objectives, 'and we have eight weeks or so to achieve them'.
Since the beginning of this year, Britain and France - the two biggest contributors of troops to Bosnia - have been publicly hinting that they will not keep their forces there for ever, and have been seeking a mechanism for beginning a withdrawal. That has been delayed by Nato being dragged into a series of military scenarios and the Americans attempting their own diplomatic initiatives in support of the Bosnian Muslims.
The Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims have all displayed extreme reluctance to implement the plan for a political solution hammered out at a foreign ministers' meeting between the West and Russia last week. That has concentrated the minds of Britain and France.
Mr Hogg indicated that if the Bosnian Muslims continued to hold out in the hope of a lifting of the arms embargo - proposed by the US and opposed by Britain and France - 'questions of withdrawal would really come to the fore, and I think at that point the humanitarian effort probably is unsustainable'.
He referred to the continuing refusal of the United States to commit troops to Bosnia and its general implications for American influence in Europe: 'I very much hope that my counterparts in Washington will keep that consideration well in mind when they consider the nature of their commitment to Bosnia.'
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