Thatcher demands the arming of Bosnia: 'Massacre of innocents' must end; UN warns that food supplies will run out in days

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BARONESS THATCHER called for Bosnian Muslims to be armed to end the 'massacre of innocents' in a scathing attack on government policy yesterday.

Arming the Muslims would fulfil the basic right of self-defence and should be backed by full air cover and ground attack if need be, or by the Serbs being given a deadline to accept the Owen-Vance peace formula - 'otherwise we would have to move in'. The former prime minister said: 'We cannot go on with this policy, namely feed ing people but leaving them to be massacred.'

The implicit accusation that the Government was guilty of something approaching appeasement came in a series of television interviews last night and will embarrass John Major and Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary. Earlier, Mr Hurd and Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of State for Defence, had repeated their opposition to military intervention.

Lady Thatcher accused the West of being 'a little like an accomplice to massacre' over its failure to do more to stop the conflict. Mr Rifkind described that statement as 'emotional nonsense,' adding that arming the Bosnians would prolong the war.

Questioned about a statement by Mr Hurd that arming the Muslims would create a 'level killing field' in the

former Yugoslavia, Lady Thatcher declared that was a 'terrible and disgraceful phrase'. The 'aggressive dictator' was 'seeing the will of the United Nations flouted. He is seeing the commanders humiliated - and the West just standing idly by.'

Echoing a statement by Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, Lady Thatcher said the West had to act, otherwise the conflict would move to Macedonia, Kosovo, the Balkans and other countries.

After watching harrowing film of children maimed in the latest assault on Srebrenica, Lady Thatcher told News at Ten: 'I never thought to see in Europe again children maimed, murdered, injured, some slaughtered.'

She added: 'The airfields in northern Italy should be used to give the Muslims full air cover and, if need be, attack the artillery and mortar positions.'

Lady Thatcher's indictment came as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees appealed to Western governments to donate food for Bosnia, saying supplies would run out within days. 'In Bosnia-Herzegovina alone, 2.3 million persons depend upon their international assistance for their survival,' Sadako Ogata told donor governments.

A UNHCR official said that with the end of winter, governments appeared to believe they had done enough. An dollars 817m (pounds 537m) appeal last month to feed some 3.8 million refugees and displaced persons until the end of the year had brought no 'substantial' pledges.

Mr Hurd told BBC radio that the Government was pressing the EC to make food in the pipeline for Bosnia available as quickly as possible and was willing to contribute more.

In Bosnia, UN officials denounced Serb troops for killing as many as 80 people, including 15 children, in the 'air bursts' bombardment of the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica on Monday.

Larry Hollingworth, the UNHCR Sarajevo operations chief, said of the officer who ordered the shelling: 'I personally hope he burns in the hottest corner of Hell. I hope that his sleep is punctuated by the screams of the children and the cries of their mothers.'

Following the delay requested by Russia to a Security Council vote on tougher sanctions against Serbia, Mr Hurd said he thought Russia, where there is strong pro-Serb sentiment, might be willing to vote in a fortnight. In Paris, the French Defence Minister, Francois Leotard, said he expected that France would recall General Philippe Morillon, the outspoken commander of UN peace-keeping forces in Bosnia, by the end of the month.

UN outrage, page 8

The Boris factor, page 20