Ashdown calls for air strikes on Bosnian Serbs

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO (Reuter, AFP) - Paddy Ashdown yesterday advocated air strikes to end the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and said he would tell the Serbs that any attempt to seize Sarajevo or Travnik would bring military intervention.

Talking to reporters after a morning walk around the shattered Bosnian capital, the Liberal Democrat leader said of the Serbs besieging the city: 'They sit with impunity on the hillside and knock down a city for the sport. The moment has arrived when we must do something.'

Advocating the use of air power, he added: 'If you use aircraft here you will remove the heavy guns that are knocking down the city.' To critics who say this would be ineffectual, Mr Ashdown, a former Royal Marine officer, said: 'If it is such a bad idea, why do the Serbs fear it so much?'

Later in the day he was due to cross Sarajevo's airport, which has been closed to relief flights for the past two weeks, to visit the Serbian headquarters at Pale, outside the city. Asked what his message would be to the Serbian leaders, he replied: 'I will tell them 'If you take Sarajevo or Travnik the thing you fear most - military intervention - will arrive'.'

During his walkabout, Mr Ashdown visited the Lion cemetery where hundreds of victims of the conflict are buried, as well as the main morgue; the register showed 21 people had been brought in during the previous 24 hours. He went to the intensive care unit at the French hospital, and was moved to tears by the plight of a six-year- old girl with a serious stomach wound.

Mr Ashdown spent 45 minutes with Ejup Ganic, the Bosnian Vice-President after walking to the meeting in the presidency in the dark because of a power cut. He said afterwards: 'Mr Ganic and I take a view which is very similar . . . We will not allow Sarajevo to fall to Serbia in a final act of aggression . . . Sarajevo is a symbol of our capacity to uphold international law. I beg the West to calculate not just the cost of action, but the cost of inaction, which would be the annihilation of a European city.'

WASHINGTON - Bobby Fischer, the chess grandmaster, was charged yesterday with violating United Nations sanctions by playing against Boris Spassky in Yugoslavia, Reuter reports.

Jay Stephens, a US prosecutor, said a federal grand jury charged Mr Fischer with violating the international emergency economic powers law by engaging in a commercial transaction in Yugoslavia. Before the match, the US government warned Mr Fischer he could face prosecution. Mr Fischer, 49, who lives in California, spat on the Treasury Department's warning letter at a news conference in September.

He has reportedly remained in Yugoslavia since winning the chess match.