Bosnia leader seeks US help for Muslims

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The Independent Online
GENEVA (Reuter) - Bosnia's Muslim President, Alija Izetbegovic, appealing for help from the United States, said yesterday he believed the American people understood the Bosnians' right to defend themselves.

As he spoke, Cyrus Vance, the United Nations peace mediator in the former Yugoslavia, was stepping up efforts to avert stronger action over Bosnia by the new US administration, including its possible support for an end to an arms embargo on the region.

After delivering a glum assessment of the Geneva peace talks, where he said no progress had been made at the weekend, Mr Izetbegovic told a news conference that tens of thousands had died because of Western inaction.

'Military intervention is already half a year late. According to our accounts, at least 1,000 people were killed daily,' he said. 'We need weapons, we need arms, but we had an arms embargo imposed upon us - and for that we were left to be killed.'

Asked if he expected help from the new US President, Bill Clinton, who has spoken of the need for firmer action to thwart Bosnia's rebel Serbs, Mr Izetbegovic said he had only heard hints that a change was on the cards. 'I believe that our request is a just one, that is the right to self-defence which is well understood by the American people,' he added.

Diplomats and officials said Mr Vance, who as secretary of state in the 1970s had the new US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, as his deputy, was striving to prevent a change of policy by Washington. One source close to the Geneva conference on ex-Yugoslavia said Mr Vance and fellow mediator Lord Owen believed Western intervention in Bosnia or the lifting of the arms embargo would set back peace efforts.

'Vance is alarmed at the mounting pressure on the Clinton administration from different sides for some dramatic action and is determined it must not succeed,' one official said.