Clinton 'must decide'

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The Independent Online
WASHINGTON - Pressure is building on President Bill Clinton to commit the United States to military intervention in Bosnia, amid warnings from the CIA that continuing inaction by the West could lead to the spreading of the Balkan conflict, writes David Usborne.

After declaring on Friday that a decision on new policy steps towards the Bosnian crisis would be announced within 'several days', Mr Clinton is expected even as early as today to spell out what new steps are intended, which may include air strikes against Serbian targets.

He must reach his conclusion against a background of increasingly passionate debate within his administration and across the country. Those opposed to military involvement continue to raise the spectre of Vietnam.

The CIA has warned President Clinton that unless he can persuade the Serbian leadership that the US and its allies are serious about punishing military adventurism, the war may quickly spread beyond the borders of the former Yugoslavia. The agency reports specifically that Albania is preparing military retaliation if Serbia moves against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

If military action is favoured, it seems most likely that Washington will support the air strikes, rather than a lifting of the embargo on arms to the Bosnian Muslims. Threatened strikes would probably be linked in the first place to any further advances by the Serbs in eastern Bosnia. It was presumed that Mr Clinton had delayed any intervention until after yesterday's Russian referendum.