Clinton promises not to go it alone

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The Independent Online
ATTEMPTING to cool the temperature between the United States and its European allies over the Balkan crisis, President Bill Clinton yesterday predicted new joint steps by the West 'over the next few days' which would improve the prospects for peace and prevent the Bosnian civil war spilling across fresh borders.

Speaking on television, Mr Clinton gave no clue to to the nature of any agreement on further action. Indeed, his remarks contrast with the harsh criticism of the Europeans to be heard both among pro-intervention senators and, more anonymously, from administration policy-makers.

According to one of the latter group, quoted in the Washington Post yesterday, Washington's earlier proposal to lift the arms embargo on the Bosnian Muslims 'is basically moribund' because of European objections. Even if US-led air strikes on Serbian positions take place, it will not be until after the referendum by Bosnian Serbs on the Vance-Owen peace plan, set for the weekend.

Mr Clinton stressed that the US could not act on its own, 'because the UN has set the framework for our involvement', and because in what was a European issue, 'we have to move forward with Europe'. But, he said, there were 'some things' the allies could do in concert to 'turn the pressure up' on the Serbs.

In Brussels, Nato officials were close to overcoming the problems of command and control in policing a Bosnian peace plan. But the issue is just one of several that must be unravelled before the Vance-Owen plan can become anything close to a reality.

The question of command and control has been seen as important by alliance members, particularly the US, which wants any Bosnian operation to take place under Nato. Some Nato countries, particularly France, wanted more United Nations control.

Ambassadors met to discuss the issue yesterday in Brussels. The compromise emerging would give the UN political control and some influence over military affairs.