The ministers, meeting in Geneva, moved closer to endorsing a proposed United Nations Security Council resolution that would permit the use of force to stop Serbian military flights in Bosnia- Herzegovina. But there was no hint that any country was prepared to
commit ground troops in a large-scale
Lawrence Eagleburger, the US Secretary of State, also released a list of seven men - four Serbs and three Croats - who in US eyes have committed war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and should be put on trial.
The Serbs included two paramilitary leaders, Vojislav Seselj and Zeljko Raznjatovic (known by his nom de guerre, Arkan), Borislav Herak, who has confessed to killing 230 civilians, and Drago Prcac, commander of the Omarska camp. The Croats were Adem Delic,
a camp commander, and 'Adil' and 'Arif', two paramilitaries who killed more than 50 Serbian women and children in a bus convoy.
The US statement also named President Slobodan Milosevic, Mr Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military commander, but seemed to stop short of directly labelling them as war criminals. It said that, if charged, they 'must eventually explain whether and how they sought to ensure that their forces complied with international law'.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, UN Secretary General, and Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance, chairmen of the conference on Yugoslavia, all cautioned that enforcement of the no-fly zone carried serious risks. Mr Vance said the operation could endanger UN personnel and humanitarian workers. He also pointed out that the UN had no evidence that combat missions had been flown since the ban was imposed in October.
He said: 'The fact is that (the UN) thus far has not seen any use of fixed- wing fighter aircraft in support of combat operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina since the no-fly resolution was passed more than two months ago.' The (UN) has tracked helicopters on a number of occasions and has been informed of allegations that helicopters have been used in an offensive role. This, however, has not been confirmed by (the UN).'
Lord Owen said on Channel 4 News last night that he expected the enforcement resolution next week, but warned that very hard thought was needed on whether it should be implemented. 'There's been a little too glib a talk about this. We've got two wars on our hands; the actual battle and also the battle against winter, and that requires the maximum effort from UN forces on the ground, and UNHCR and aid officials, and if we were to start a war in which the UN were seen to be, if you like, actively engaged, then I think we'd see the winter humanitarian effort grind to a halt with tragic consequences for loss of life.'
Mr Eagleburger said his administration was also willing to have the Security Council re-examine the arms embargo on the Bosnian government. He was supported by Klaus Kinkel, Germany's Foreign Minister, but other countries, including Britain, said pouring more arms into the area would exacerbate the conflict. However, Mr Eagleburger told one minister privately how far the expiring US administration was prepared to go: 'Not one single man on the ground.'
One factor in calling the conference was that Islamic countries are making increasingly loud threats to take military action on behalf of Bosnia's Muslims. Western governments, led by France and the US, have seized on a Security Council resolution to enforce the no-fly zone as a way of thwarting that prospect.
Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, acknowledged that enforcement could put humanitarian operations at risk, but said: 'Personally, I believe a way round that can be found.' Mr Hurd also warned that new UN sanctions might have to be considered, including sealing of borders, cutting postal services and detaining ships on the river Danube.
His statement confirmed that Britain was ready to endorse the resolution. But concern about its 2,400 troops on the ground and the motives of politicians pushing enforcement remains.
'There is a sharp distinction between the doers and the spectators,' said a British source, hinting that Mr Eagleburger was playing to the gallery.
Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, said his forces would regard it as 'an act of war' if Serbian aircraft were destroyed. Military experts viewed his remarks as a sign that his military
position is weaker than is generally