Clamour for Serb 'rebuff'

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The Independent Online
AS THE US prepares to press its Nato allies today to use air power not only to protect UN peace-keepers but also to break the siege of Sarajevo, demands intensified here for decisive American moves to rebuff Serbia and, even at this eleventh hour, preserve some semblance of a Bosnian state.

The fate of the proposals, to be presented in Brussels today by Stephen Oxman, the Assistant Secretary of State, and Reginald Bartholomew, President Bill Clinton's special envoy for former Yugoslavia, is uncertain. According to officials here, the fact that the session is taking place indicates broad backing from both Britain and France. But Vice- President Al Gore, a leading administration advocate of tougher steps against Serbia, said it was 'premature' to speculate on the outcome.

Others, though, are more forthright. Public opinion remains divided, but Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, foremost among Democrats urging action, reiterated yesterday that the West had to move, both for humanitarian reasons and to preserve its own self-respect as a guarantor of international law.

From the Republican side Bob Dole, the Senate minority leader, went further, arguing in a Washington Post article that Mr Clinton should halt the current Geneva negotations and deliver an ultimatum for the existing 'ceasefire' to be respected and for all heavy weapons to be turned over to UN control. If the deadline is not met, bombing should begin without delay.

Meanwhile, the US planes are waiting. Navy F-18s and A-6 jets on board the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the Adriatic could carry out up to 150 sorties daily. Anti-tank A-10 'Warthogs' are deployed at Aviano airbase in northern Italy, along with AC-130 gunships, which could be used for night attacks against Serbian positions.

In Madrid, Julian Garcia Vargas, the Spanish Defence Minister, said he would support selective air strikes in Bosnia to protect civilians, UN peace- keeping troops and the city of Sarajevo. He told the state news agency Efe that 'the international community has acted so far with caution and what is now needed is firm action', adding: 'Sarajevo is now a symbol for all Europeans and civilised people. It is unacceptable in the 20th century for a city to be under siege, with deaths every day.'

In Geneva, members of Bosnia-Herzegovina's leadership voiced dissent about the peace accord backed by Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim President. Delegates on Bosnia's collective presidency, which Mr Izetbegovic heads, said the plan tentatively agreed on Friday would prolong fighting and create 1 million refugees.

Mr Izetbegovic yesterday said he had warned that he could pull out of the peace talks unless Serbs halted attacks around Sarajevo and Brcko in the north. His Foreign Minister, Haris Silajdzic, urged prompt international intervention against Serbian forces to prevent genocide of Muslims.

(Photograph omitted)