Are weapons the solution to war in Bosnia?: Baroness Thatcher wants Bosnian Muslims to be given arms to defend themselves. The Independent asked a cross-section of people whether they agreed with her

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KINGSLEY AMIS, novelist: 'With great reluctance, I disagree (with Baroness Thatcher). There is no end to the adventure in what was Yugoslavia. We can only make a mess of things for us and others as well. I don't know if it is possible but I think we should pull out. My best solution would be never to have gone there in the first place.'

Geoff Hamilton, 41, student on business administration course, Hackney, east London: 'I think she is perfectly right because Bosnia is defenceless. People are being slaughtered and the Serbians do not care about peace. I don't see how you can sit it out. It's a matter of doing something and seeing what happens.'

Sir Anthony Parsons, former British ambassador to the United Nations: 'I have enormous sympathy with everything she said. The only thing she didn't say is how you would raise the arms embargo on the Bosnian Muslims. It can only be lifted by a mandatory resolution of the security council which the Russians would undoubtedly veto. And to lift it unilaterally would set the most catastrophic precedent for all the people who want to raise embargoes in Iraq, Somalia and everywhere else.'

Betty Seymour, 46, typesetter operator: 'I don't think giving arms to anyone is a good idea. I don't approve of war. We should be disarming the Serbs, not arming people. I don't think there is an immediate answer, but world policing is one step away away from dictatorship. You can't just meander into other countries.'

Mark Douglas, 41, environmental health officer, of Stoke Newington, north London: 'I don't have a lot of time for her, but on this occasion she may be right. I don't think we should necessarily arm the Bosnian Muslims, but we shouldn't stop them arming themselves. If they have got their own arms they are quite capable of defending themselves.'

Bill Jordan, president of the Amalgamated Engineers and Electricians Union: 'Mrs Thatcher's expertise in conflict has to be set against her record of dividing Britain to the point where her own party threw her out. Her solution is a sure-fire way of prolonging the conflict.'

Christina Odone, editor of Catholic Herald. 'I think she's wrong. She blew the whistle on the lazy, half-hearted response of the West in Bosnia but that undermines the work of the British, American, Italian and French men now helping the relief effort. But to arm the Bosnians against the Serbs would make us responsible for anything that goes wrong. And I'd like to know: how can someone so completely marginalised as Lady Thatcher grab these headlines? She's a has-been.'

Derek Thornton, chairman of York Conservatives: 'I am not pleased with what she has said at all. I do believe the Government at the moment is doing the best job it can. I think to become over-involved would perhaps not be a great positive move. I have to say I am, and have always been, a fan of Margaret but I think she should not come forward with these kind of proposals. When I saw her on TV last night I thought she appeared shrill. The country has enough problems of its own without loading us up any more.'

Lord Healey, former Foreign Secretary: 'She is as responsible as anyone for the mess there. She, right at the beginning of the troubles in Yugoslavia, pressed us to support Serbia against Croatia, which is what the Germans wanted us to do. That was totally against Lord Carrington's advice - he said it would lead to the splitting of the country and a disaster. So she carries a large part of the guilt. Her call for intervention is totally dishonest. She says she would not commit ground troops, but all the military advice is that if you don't have people to find you targets, you kill an awful lot of innocents. Humanitarian intervention is the only possible intervention.'

Dame Barbara Cartland, novelist: 'I feel we have to take a stand sooner or later. We can't sit by. We must lead, as we have always led, the fight against persecution. We should send in aeroplanes, after all we no longer have enough soldiers since the reforms under Thatcher. I wouldn't arm the Muslims, otherwise it will drag on for ever. We should fight our own war with our own people.'

Michael Winner, film director: 'I think (Lady Thatcher's suggestion) is ridiculous. It's a three-way fight for a start. Do you also arm the Croats, who are also fighting the Serbs? Look all over the world and arm those who you think are in the right, and you'd end up arming 20 or 30 forces. I don't think we should get involved in a civil war, there or anywhere else.'

Mary Johnson, housewife, Glasgow: 'The concept of what she is saying is not that bad. She thinks that this will mean they will be able to defend themselves, and not be in the least bit aggressive. That's a bit up the creek for a start. But its too late to give them anything. Something should have been done earlier. She's being a bit naive now.'

John Brown, publisher of Viz magazine: 'It is so incredibly frustrating sitting there watching people massacring each other in a very unfair fight, with the might of the world's forces having to ask some hideous little warlord for permission to go in and help a starving baby. So one's knee-jerk reaction watching Thatcher was 'Yes] Let's go and bash those Serbs' faces in.' She can say that because she's a retired politician. If only things were so easy.'

Sir Roy Strong, writer and historian: 'On the TV last night she made you realise what it was to have a Prime Minister - what she said was almost irrelevant, at long last you had someone with commitment and vision. But I was nervous about her jingoism. One's emotions are with what she said. But my knowledge of the history of Europe tells me not to do it (arm the Bosnian Muslims). It would be a case of 'light the blue touch paper and retire' - what would the knock-on effects be? I keep thinking, why the hell did we get rid of the Austro-Hungarian empire?'

David Price, director of an international construction consultantcy, Liverpool: 'My view is that the West should do more for all sides. I also feel that the UN should have more strength. It is a difficult area to police but not enough is being done to stop the killing of innocent women and children. We should not, however, take sides. There should be peaceful negotiations with a greater presence in the country.'

Michael Palin, actor: 'As soon as you arm someone you kill somebody else. That's the equation you must bear in mind, and it's very difficult to know where it will lead to. But you can understand people's indignation when the Serbs continue shelling and killing and are content to be the world's least popular nation. As ever, her panaceas for everything are based on a single vision. Things are really much, much more complex. I think her record shows that a single vision is rarely adequate.'

Anita Brookner, novelist: 'I really don't know what the solution is. I don't know if there is a solution. (If you arm the Bosnian Muslims) you'll create a bloodbath in what was Yugoslavia. It may be a more politically correct bloodbath, but what would be the endgame from that? I think the most sinister fact is that Karadzic is a psychiatrist - if he can't desist, how can we come up with the arguments, moral or otherwise, that will make him do so?'

Jon Barrow, 49, of Davyhulme, Manchester: 'I don't think we should be selling arms to Bosnia. That sounds typical Thatcher, sticking up for the arms dealers and their profits. If the situation needs sorting out, it should be the British army that does it. If the Serbs heard the sound of bagpipes or met the Royal Marines on a dark night, they'd shit themselves and beg for peace.'

David Puttnam, film producer: 'It was good that someone has a visceral reaction to this ghastly problem - there are too many cool heads around. But her solution is pretty daft. A lot of what she said made sense, though: what's going on is precisely analogous to pre-war Germany and appeasement. I've a horrid feeling that Mr Karadzic goes to bed roaring with laughter about the UN and the EC. One of the lessons of the Gulf war was surgical air strikes, precisely targeted . . . Did that work? Could those be an idea?'

Irene Kent, 60, bookkeeper: 'Lady Thatcher's stirring up another lot of trouble. I don't agree with arming the Bosnians, I think it's dreadful. Giving them arms will make it worse. I was trying to think what you could do to solve it last night after I saw it on television, I had to shut it out in the end. But you cannot let people be massacred.'

Sir Bernard Ingham, former press secretary for Mrs Thatcher: 'I think what she's really trying to say is quite simple. The Serbs have unlimited supplies and the Muslims get what they can. It is, if you like, an uneven killing field: all she wants is for them to have the chance to defend themselves. And I think that is entirely reasonable.'

Derek Read, 32, unemployed, of Hackney, east London: 'I think someone in her position needs to be very careful about what they're saying. As far as I can see there is no obvious solution. It's not clear that air strikes can do anything to solve the problem. And the danger is that if you get involved in that way then you will get dragged into a long, drawn-out war like Vietnam.'

Lord Soper, pacifist: 'I'm not surprised but I am shocked by Lady Thatcher's statement. It's a confirmation of my position that war is not only morally wrong but becomes impossible to conduct. Just like in Vietnam. The advice from Lady Thatcher is that we should do more fighting in order to solve a problem that cannot be solved by fighting. It's absolutely calamitous.'

Leading article, page 23

(Photographs omitted)

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