Paris attacks US over lifting arms embargo

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SARAJEVO (Reuter) - France yesterday criticised US-led moves to lift the arms embargo on Bosnia's Muslim government if Bosnian Serbs do not agree to a peace plan.

The French Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur, said lifting the embargo to supply weapons to the Bosnian army to help them tackle their Serb foes would be tantamount to 'washing our hands' of ex-Yugoslavia. France's Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, told a conference of French diplomats that 'those who view the lifting of the arms embargo as a panacea must be clearly aware of the responsibility they take in pushing it'.

President Bill Clinton, under pressure from the US Congress, intends to ask the Security Council to lift the UN arms embargo against the Bosnian government unless Serbs accept a Big Power peace plan by 15 October.

European powers with troops on UN duty in Bosnia have said they will pull out their forces if the embargo is lifted, arguing that fighting will increase and endanger the saftey of their soldiers. UN peace-keeping officials warn that could cause the humanitarian aid effort to collapse, leave isolated Muslim enclaves in eastern Bosnia at the mercy of Serb attacks and plunge Sarajevo back into total siege,

On Wednesday, Bosnia's Prime Minister, Haris Silajdzic, criticised Britain and France for opposing lifting the arms embargo, saying the two had done more than any other government to lock in the Serbs' military superiority. 'I would understand and respect total neutrality, but once you make a decision to deprive a people and a country of the right to defend themselves . . . you cannot just walk away because your troops are in danger.' he said.