Bosnia: Muslim leader wants air strikes

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The Independent Online
GENEVA (AP, Reuter) - Nato, facing the prospect of its first-ever combat mission, is set for a crucial debate today on plans for possible air attacks on Serbs in Bosnia. Bosnia's Muslim President, Alija Izetbegovic, yesterday appealed for immediate air strikes against Bosnian Serbs, saying this was necessary to end the war. 'If there are no air strikes against the Serbs, there will be no result in the negotiations,' said Mr Izetbegovic.

'One single air strike - it does not have to be big - would change the whole situation, because it would prove to the Serbs that Americans mean business.' The Bosnian leader said the air strikes should come in the next two or three days to have any effect. He added: 'There is now a dilemma among the Serbs whether to negotiate or achieve a full victory. If there are no air strikes, they will go for the victory.'

Central to the negotiations among the alliance ambassadors is a report on air strike options ordered by Nato's Secretary-General, Manfred Woerner, and finalised by military commanders last night after two days of lengthy deliberations.

In Washington, President Bill Clinton said he believed Nato support for possible US air attacks in Bosnia had improved the climate for a negotiated peace in the former Yugoslavia. Despite UN insistence on veto power over US attacks, 'the good news is that the Nato allies have gone along with us and that the United Nations at least seems open to a more aggressive position', Mr Clinton said. The US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, spent yesterday pushing allies for a tougher stance towards the Bosnian Serbs. Hoping to overcome European reservations, he telephoned foreign ministers over the weekend, telling them Nato's future hangs in the balance.

He also wrote to all 15 allied foreign ministers on Friday on what a senior US official described as a 'make-or- break decision' whether to follow through on persistent threats of allied military intervention.

Mr Izetbegovic caved in to battlefield losses and pressure from the international mediators, Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg, and last month agreed to a plan, backed by the Serbs and Croats, that would divide his state into three ethnic republics.

But, heartened by Nato's threat of air strikes against the Serbs besieging Sarajevo and angered by the enemy's continuing advance towards the capital, Mr Izetbegovic now says the plan offered in Geneva is unacceptable. 'The Serb-Croat plan given here to us is totally unacceptable because it rewards the aggressor and ethnic cleansing,' he said.

The President said he would agree on the ethnic division of Bosnia into three republics only if it retains some central government and remains a member of the United Nations within current borders.

WASHINGTON - Another US State Department official has resigned in protest over the American policy towards Bosnia, writes Phil Reeves.

Jon Western, a member of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, which has been investigating allegations of Serbian war crimes, wrote to department officials saying he was leaving because the US approach had not been tough enough.

He is the third State Department official to depart in protest at US inaction over Bosnia.