Turks call for weapons from Islamic nations: Turkey and Iran in moves to help fellow Muslims

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The Independent Online
PUSHING ahead of its Nato allies once again, Turkey struggled yesterday to bring Islamic countries together in a call for weapons to be sent to the beleaguered Muslim fighters of Bosnia.

The Bosnian President, Alija Izetbegovic, flown by Turkey to an Islamic mini-summit in Senegal, added his own plea for support from fellow Muslims or anybody ready to help: 'We have enough boys ready to fight. We don't need any boys from abroad. But we need arms.'

Mr Izetbegovic said there had been heavy Serbian bombardments and ground attacks around Sarajevo again yesterday, causing several casualties. He said he was not optimistic that Bosnian Serb leaders would accept the peace plan at Geneva but he would return there today to continue talks.

'We expect that the Islamic states will undertake, immediately after 15 January, more resolute and concrete actions . . . particularly in regard of our self-defence,' Mr Izetbegovic said.

Bosnia has received its strongest support from Turkey, which has worked for months to win tougher international action against Serbia. It orchestrated a pledge by Islamic countries in December to take strong measures after this Friday if the UN peace process had got nowhere.

'It's not enough to have a bleeding heart. You have to have a tough heart as well,' said one senior Turkish ambassador.

President Turgut Ozal outlined Turkey's increasingly hard line position during the Islamic meeting. In an interview he also attacked European states, especially Britain, for their slow response to the Bosnian crisis. The United States, he said, had been ready to intervene for some time.

'Europe is making double standards - if the aggressor had been the Bosnian Muslims, probably the situation would have been completely different by now,' Mr Ozal said on his way to Dakar.

'First of all, I see the objection by the British. They say we have soldiers, and if we make (a no-fly zone) interdiction, our people will be killed,' Mr Ozal said. 'Take them away, take them away. I don't think the United Nations is playing a role there. The United Nations, if they are going to go in, should really go in.'

Military intervention would probably have to be led by the United States and would not need ground troops at this stage, he said. Turkey was ready to send war planes, he added, but acknowledged that Greece and other countries' objections might keep them out. Mr Ozal was giving voice to growing Turkish frustration over Bosnia. Some diplomats fear that the sharper tone of Turkish rhetoric may move to a more hawkish Turkish position in the Balkans that will divide it from its Nato allies. Mr Ozal said Turkey did not want to go it alone and his officials had been encouraging the Bosnian Muslim government back to the negotiating table in Geneva.

Turkey's frustrations are in fact not only with the Christian West but with the Islamic world.

In a bold personal initiative, Mr Ozal sent his personal plane to bring President Izetbegovic from Geneva to Dakar for the emergency meeting of the 10-state 'enlarged bureau' of the 51-state Islamic Conference Organisation. But he could not divert the meeting from its original primary function to discuss the 400-odd Palestinians expelled into Lebanon by Israel.

In his speech, Mr Ozal proposed that a no-fly zone be enforced immediately and that the Serbs should be forced to place heavy weaponry under international control, failing which they should be attacked. He urged that Bosnia-Herzegovina be exempted from the UN arms embargo and that the UN should institute war crimes and a genocide inquiry into the Bosnian conflict.

Speaking to the Independent, Mr Ozal made clear that his first priority was to open the way for arms shipments to the Bosnians. The Bosnian Muslims had sufficient men and morale to defend themselves with the proper equipment, he said.

The Bosnian Muslim Chief of Staff visited Turkey last week, but Mr Ozal declined to give information about his talks with Turkish officials and denied that Turkey was turning a blind eye to arms supplies. The ones getting rich were Croatian arms dealers.