Top brass weigh plan to save Gorazde enclave

Commanders consider punching corridor to Sarajevo 8 Red Cross gains access to Srebrenica 8 Paris warns of 'threat to Europe'; LAST HAVEN
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Top military commanders from Britain, France and the US were asked to decide last night whether to throw in more UN troops to protect Gorazde, likely to be the last survivor of the three Bosnian "safe havens" under siege by Serbs in eastern Bosnia. Srebrenica fell last week and Zepa was on the point of collapse last night as the Serbs met little resistance from outgunned government troops.

As the chiefs of staff gathered in London, the Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, said Britain was "very willing" to consider any realistic military proposals. "We need political leadership, but also we need to take account of professional military judgement. It is the combination of the two which we are working on," he told BBC radio.

Admiral Jacques Lanxade, the French chief of staff, was outlining an initiative to reinforce the remaining "safe havens" to his British and American counterparts, Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge and General John Shalikashvili. A French official said that they were likely to agree a plan to reinforce Gorazde and to open up a supply route to Sarajevo.

Paul Beaver, editor of the Jane's defence publications, said the plan was likely to involve the use of US air-power and European troops. But the generals could only agree to a plan - they could not enforce it. "It's going to have to be the politicians."

Some reports said plans to be presented at the meeting in the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall could involve using US Apache or Cobra attack helicopters and Sea Stallion heavy-lift helicopters.

Mr Rifkind said the allies were looking at military options concerning the supply of Sarajevo, the fate of Gorazde and the future of the protection forces. Downing Street said the defence chiefs were expected to report back early this morning.

Earlier, a UN spokesman in Sarajevo said Serb infantry supported by tanks and heavy mortars were within a mile of Zepa. Nato aircraft flew overhead but could do nothing to help the small Ukrainian UN force. The Serbs overran three Ukrainian UN observation posts round Zepa. The Serb forces captured the enclave of Srebrenica last Tuesday, forcing most of its 40,000 people to flee

The Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, told the Spanish newspaper El Pais that the concept of UN "safe areas" in Bosnia was untenable. "The Muslim enclaves in Bosnia are no longer viable and have to disappear. If not we will take them by force," he said.