Major rejects Ashdown plea to save Sarajevo

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In the Commons yesterday, the Prime Minister, John Major, rejected pleas for help to prevent the fall of Sarajevo, saying Britain was doing its part in Bosnia and it was now up to other countries to contribute. 'Are you prepared to allow the city of Sarajevo to fall?' Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, asked Mr Major. He replied: '(You) may be an enthusiast for putting British (combat) troops in the middle of Bosnia. I am not.'

A Labour MP, Clare Short, said a UN resolution setting up UN-protected safe areas for besieged Bosnian Muslims in Sarajevo and other enclaves had not yet been implemented. She said if it was not done 'then Sarajevo will fall'. Mr Major told the House: 'We have had a substantial troop presence in Bosnia for some time.' He was referring to some 2,500 British troops helping to protect UN aid convoys.

In a later statement Mr Major said the British government was encouraging the Muslim-led Bosnian government to engage in direct negotiations with the Serbs and Croats under the auspices of Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg, the international mediators. Officials in Geneva said yesterday that Lord Owen and Mr Stoltenberg were still waiting for confirmation of whether President Alija Izetbegovic would join the talks due to open today in Geneva.