Mitterrand sends in troops to outflank Kohl: France attacks 'dangerous campaign' to lift arms embargo on Bosnia's Muslims - Assurances received about Vuk Draskovic's health

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT Francois Mitterrand took a snap decision on the plane back from the Copenhagen summit to commit 1,300 more troops to Bosnia - 800 of them recruits from France, the rest from the French deployment in Croatia - despite earlier statements that Paris had no more troops to give. The reason was to rob Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Bill Clinton of their argument for lifting the arms embargo on Bosnia's Muslims.

Following the decision - which French diplomats said was taken privately by the President and against the wishes of his Prime Minister - Alain Juppe, the French Foreign Minister, attacked the 'unfair and dangerous campaign' to lift the embargo: it was 'a Pilate solution' that would lead to a massacre. 'Who is really helping the Muslims on the ground in Bosnia today? I have a list of the contingents and I don't see one contingent from certain countries that have been giving us moral lessons,' he said, in reference to the fact that Messrs Clinton and Kohl have both failed to provide any troops for UN operations on the ground.

Mr Kohl, who has privately favoured lifting the embargo on the Muslims for a year, came to the EC summit armed with a letter from Mr Clinton urging the arming of Bosnia's Muslims. Mr Mitterrand, in a masterstroke aimed at salvaging both Franco-German and EC unity, told Mr Kohl that he was right, but only as a last resort and only if the UN failed to raise the 7,500 additional troops required to protect the 'safe areas' plan in Bosnia. His compromise formula was written into the summit conclusions. He then outwitted Mr Kohl by deciding to rustle up more troops to help meet the requirement.

In another measure of the Anglo- French irritation with America, Douglas Hurd delivered a thinly- veiled attack on the US. His denunciation, which British officials said was also aimed at Germany, took in the fact that the US has also failed to pay its monetary contribution to UN peace-keeping operations.

'We have men there . . . and we pay our dues,' the Foreign Secretary told Newsnight before the French decision. 'The appeal is addressed to those . . . who are not up to date with their obligations, their money which they owe to the Secretary-General of the UN for peace-keeping. If he could get his 7,500 men . . . and if he could get, which is just as important, all those countries, including big countries, to pay what they owe, then we could increase the number of lives which are being saved in Bosnia.'

The US owes almost pounds 600m in unpaid UN assessments, of which nearly pounds 200m is for peace-keeping operations. Its reluctance to commit troops led it to force the killing-off of the Vance-Owen plan last month, since implementation would have required some 20,000 US soldiers. Germany, too, has so far failed to send troops because of its constitutional muddle on out-of-area deployment.

In exchange for ditching Vance- Owen, Mr Clinton had agreed to bury his call to arm the Muslims. But he and Mr Kohl were acting under the influence of phone calls on the eve of the summit from President Suleyman Demirel of Turkey, self-appointed champion of Bosnia's Muslims.

As five non-aligned Security Council members drafted a resolution to lift the embargo, Russia was certain to oppose it, with Britain and France. Since the Western permanent members do not put each other in the position of having to veto one another, it was unlikely the US would press for the resolution going to a vote. John Major announced Britain was sending 12 Jaguar ground-attack aircraft to operate 'in and around' Bosnia, but would not dispatch more troops.

PARIS - General Philippe Morillon was about to be replaced as commander of UN troops in Bosnia and a French general, Jean Cot, would replace Sweden's Lars-Eric Wahlgren soon as overall commander of UN peace-keeping forces in former Yugoslavia, the French Defence Minister, Francois Leotard, said, Reuter reports. The move was a UN decision and Gen Morillon would take up another prominent post, he said.

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