'Jaw not war' ultimatum at peace talks

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE President of Bosnia yesterday announced he was boycotting talks with Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat leaders in Brussels because the Serbs could not negotiate while waging war. At the same time, Nato said it was not ready to present any plan for troop deployment in Bosnia, although France said it was ready to send 1,100 troops to back up Thursday's UN Security Council resolution authorising force to protect relief convoys.

President Alija Izetbegovic declared after attending European Community-sponsored plenary talks with leaders of the former Yugoslavia: 'They have to choose - negotiate or wage war. They cannot do both.' The three ethnic leaders of Bosnia were due to have met this weekend.

At an emergency meeting in Brussels, Nato steered clear of ordering the possible use of troops to escort relief convoys. 'We have still some work to do,' said the Nato Secretary-General, Manfred Worner. A statement said the meeting 'directed the military committee to continue its work on a range of options', after a report suggested that 100,000 soldiers would be needed to set up a land corridor.

'We are a long way from sending troops to Bosnia under a Nato flag to protect aid convoys,' one Nato diplomat was quoted as saying. 'It may never happen, for a variety of reasons.'

Although the Nato statement condemned the 'violations of international humanitarian law, including those involved in the practice of 'ethnic cleansing' ', it did not apportion blame to any party, or mention Serb-run detention camps specifically.

In Paris, Roland Dumas, the French Foreign Minister, said President Francois Mitterrand had approved a contingent of 1,100 men divided into four units - engineers, troop transport, light armoured vehicles and helicopters - to serve under the French flag following the UN resolution. France will ask overflight permission from the government of Bosnia to be able to give its troops air support. He said France was asking its partners what they were prepared to do to enforce the UN resolution.

In London, Baroness Chalker, the Foreign Office minister, said Britain would undertake its responsibilities in the former Yugoslavia with Nato. But she added: 'There is a long distance between helping humanitarian aid through with military people and getting into a situation where you have to be prepared to fight your way through.'

Mr Dumas said: 'There will be certain risks, notably the risk of a confrontation. The country needs to be told this truth.' He added: 'We need to have a command, if not a single command then a co- ordination command. That will be done within the framework of Nato and WEU (the Western European Union) - because that's a European organisation and we are going in as Europeans.'

Ukraine, which has 420 peace- keepers at Sarajevo airport, said it reserved the right to withdraw all of them after one if its officers died of shell injuries. A Ukrainian official said: 'The Bosnians agreed to the dispatch of Ukrainian troops and were under an obligation to create specific security conditions. The question is thus a logical one: why ask for troops if you cannot create the necessary security conditions?'

(Photograph omitted)