Brussels rejects further use of force

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The Independent Online
THE European Union yesterday walked away from the further use of force around Gorazde, and emphasised instead the need to increase negotiating pressure on the Bosnian Serbs.

There was an open acknowledgement that policy had failed and that Gorazde had in effect fallen with barely a shot fired by the West, despite a commitment to defend safe areas. 'What has happened in Gorazde in the past few days is a serious setback,' said the Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, calling the collapse 'a serious failure following a period of success in Bosnia'.

But he said that there was much of positive value that remained. The EU mediator in the former Yugoslavia, Lord Owen, said that 'this is a question of trying to put the whole thing together'.

There was no effort to increase military pressure, despite the possibility of further air strikes. Escalation was not appropriate, said the Foreign Secretary, saying of military action: 'We've seen in the last few days the limitations to that.' Lord Owen said of the use of force: 'I think we've seen ample evidence in the last few weeks of making statements one way or the other.'

Earlier Lord Owen had attacked the media for building pressure for military action, calling them 'lap- top bombardiers'.

The military option had failed, Mr Hurd said, because there had not been sufficient commitment in terms of troops on the ground. 'Fresh countries should come forward and offer troops,' he said, as should nations prepared to bankroll the states already providing contingents. 'I hope very much the Americans will agree and will be able to finance the provision of troops.'

But nor was withdrawal of UN forces an option, said Mr Hurd. Instead, the meeting came down on the side of trying to pull together the existing diplomatic effort, badly damaged by the weekend's events. There is a feeling among some of the Europeans that the initiative has slipped away from them after the US intervention, and that this had fed the incoherencies that produced the Gorazde collapse.

The meeting agreed to press for a further United Nations Security Council resolution that would create a ceasefire around Gorazde and allow for the unimpeded flow of humanitarian supplies.

The central point that emerged was the need to co-ordinate the four main diplomatic tracks, an implicit criticism of the diplomatic failures of the last few weeks. The EU and the UN had 'dropped out of the picture,' said Lord Owen. The Russians were angry at having been excluded and there was a clear push to placate them yesterday.

Once more, the prospect of the lifting of sanctions against the Serbs was raised, if they co-operated in negotiations. There were sticks as well as carrots in the approach, said Lord Owen.

There is little likelihood of an amicable meeting of the minds on the next steps among the allies, especially given previous differences and last year's highly publicised split over the UN intention to push for the lifting of the arms embargo on the Bosnian Muslims and the use of air strikes.

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