Saving Sarajevo: MPs join call for military intervention

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A CROSS-PARTY section of MPs has backed the Independent's campaign to ensure humanitarian aid reaches Sarajevo. The Mostar road into central Bosnia is blocked but if opened would provide a lifeline to the besieged Bosnian city. The Independent advocates the deployment of an extra 1,800 United Nations troops and, if necessary, the use of force to secure the route.

'I think it is superb and an absolute imperative if we want to save Bosnia,' said Clare Short, the Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood.

She was joined by Patrick Cormack (Con, Staffordshire South). He said: 'I broadly support the proposals. I've been saying this for far longer than the Independent.'

Derek Fatchett (Lab, Leeds Central) believes that public pressure can bring about a change in UN policy. 'The tragedy of Sarajevo is a failure of Western governments and Western commitment. I feel that politicians have always done too little too late. That's why I would like to see public opinion pushing the politicians towards firmer and more effective action.'

The Government also came in for criticism from Sir Russell Johnston, the Liberal Democrats' spokesman on foreign affairs: 'The use of force has been ruled out by the government. Douglas Hurd is not prepared to take the risk of becoming embroiled in a land war.' Sir Russell sees the need for a larger UN presence as inevitable and argues that Britain should 'face up' to the deployment of its troops in greater numbers.

The need for aggressive force came under fire from George Robertson (Labour, Hamilton). 'The Labour party believes in the Washington agreement to protect the safe areas which include Sarajevo and that the appropriate troop levels should be put in place. But force can only be used in self defence.'

Teresa Gorman (Con, Billericay) rejected the proposals outright. 'I don't believe in getting into these foreign wars. I understand the humanitarian point. But I don't approve of British troops being killed,' she said.

It is estimated that safeguarding the Mostar road will need 1,800 more UN soldiers, but the Eric Martlew (Lab, Carlisle) thinks limited involvement is impossible. 'We're talking about at least 55,000 UN troops. I don't think there's any demand in my constituency to put UN troops in there. With an agreement like the Vance-Owen plan we would need at least 55,000 to enforce peace. Without agreement we would need over 200,000. If you started to use force anywhere, the UN becomes a target,' he said.

For some, the plan does not go far enough. Bernie Grant (Lab, Tottenham) said that UN military intervention worked in Somalia and could also protect the besieged citizens of Sarajevo. 'I'd advocate using troops and air strikes, not just to safeguard the convoys but to bomb Serb positions around Sarajevo.'