Thatcher warns of 'Holocaust' risk in Bosnia appeal

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BARONESS Thatcher stepped up the political pressure for a military crackdown on the Serbs last night - with a call for air strikes, a suggestion that Western inaction had 'given comfort' to the aggressor and a warning of the risk of a 'second Holocaust'.

In an article in today's European, the former prime minister echoed the views of Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, urging that a 48-hour ultimatum be issued to the Serbs to withdraw from Sarajevo and other beseiged Bosnian cities.

'There must be an immediate enforcement of Security Council resolutions interdicting Serbian use of airspace,' she said. 'Our own troops in Bosnia must have proper air protection. At present they are terribly exposed. There must also be an immediate end to the arms embargo against Bosnia and Croatia.'

Lady Thatcher said that if hostilities continued, the West should arm the Bosnians and that if the Serbs did not withdraw from Bosnia, air strikes should be launched against military positions inside Serbia itself.

'We could have stopped this,' she said, adding: 'We could still do so. We have sent a small number of our brave and highly professional servicemen to accompany inadequate supplies to feed some Bosnians before the Serbs and the winter kill them.

'But for the most part we in the West have actually given comfort to the aggressor. We have continued to treat this war of aggression by Serbia as if it were a 'civil war'. We have repeatedly stated in public that we will not intervene militarily, so removing even a nagging uncertainty from the minds of the generals in Belgrade. We have accepted the flouting of successive UN Security Council resolutions by Serbia, whose aircraft are still free to drop cluster bombs on women and children.'

'There is still time to save the intended victims of this second Holocaust,' she warned.

Last night, her demands for action were dismissed by Cabinet ministers. One said: 'She never said that when she was in government. The first thing she did in the Gulf war was to ask the Chiefs of Staff what the military answer was. She ought to do that now.' Another minister said Lady Thatcher's proposal for a strike on Serbian targets made military sense, but was impossible politically.

With the Commons breaking for a three-week Christmas recess later today, MPs were showing concern yesterday that military action could be taken when Parliament was not sitting.

John Butcher, Tory MP for Coventry South West and a former minister, warned: 'It would be a tragedy if we were to sleepwalk into an international crisis before we had a proper discussion.'

From the Labour frontbench, Nick Brown, said the Commons should be informed 'at the earliest possible moment' of any change in the British commitment. Robert Maclennan, for the Liberal Democrats, urged Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, to report to MPs today on the meetings held this week in Stockholm and Geneva.

Serbian threat, page 11