Rifkind appeals to US after Bosnia deadlock

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The Independent Online
SARAH HELM

Brussels

After European foreign ministers failed again yesterday to produce a plan of action for Bosnia, Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, flies to Washington today to ask whether the US is willing to reinforce the UN peace-keeping forces.

The Europeans appeared as confused as ever over whether to step up military action in Bosnia, and to reinforce the forces protecting the remaining UN "safe-areas", or whether to consider withdrawing the peace-keepers altogether.

French government sources said yesterday that military chiefs of the US, France and Britain failed to agree on joint action to protect Muslim enclaves, in a five-hour meeting in London on Sunday night. Sources said the failure of the discussion of a French plan to reinforce Gorazde and break the Serb stranglehold on Sarajevo raised the possibility of a French withdrawal. "The other two did not go along with us. The others want neither a tough intervention nor a withdrawal," one French source said.

Andrei Kozyrev, the Russian foreign minister, warned the West against being drawn into an "extremely dangerous" confrontation", and accused the Europeans of seeking the "moral high ground" without considering the consequences of all-out war. "Does the West contemplate a huge operation with huge casualties, including civilian casualties right in the middle of Europe?" he asked.

After inconclusive discussions in Brussels, the European foreign ministers conceded that any attempt to retake Srebrenica, which fell to the Serbs last week, has now been abandoned and admitted that the enclave of Zepa is beyond saving.

British concerns now focus on the safety of more than 300 British troops protecting the enclave of Gorazde, which is in the way of the Serbian advance.

Mr Rifkind admitted that the Western alliance would be incapable of reinforcing Gorazde or evacuating the peace-keepers without the aid of US attack helicopters. He is expected to test US willingness to supply helicopters when he holds talks with Warren Christopher, the US Secretary of State, today.

Zepa cry for help, page 8

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