UN looks set to stay on

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The Independent Online
Pressure to withdraw United Nations peace-keepers from Bosnia had receded, William Perry, the United States Defense Secretary, said yesterday. He was in Brussels for a two-day meeting of Nato defence ministers, which starts today.

Despite the lull in public statements about the removal of UN forces, the meeting will consider Nato plans to assist their evacuation. Ministers will examine the possible troop contributions to an evacuation force. The US has already said it will contribute ground forces, and Britain has promised more troops if necessary. Germany was said to be considering requests for troops, which would be a historic step for a country that only recently agreed it could send soldiers to fight outside the Nato area.

Mr Perry said the US decision had helped persuade the European allies to rethink earlier, statements on withdrawal. "What focused their attention was our saying that we would assist the withdrawal. And now they start thinking about the withdrawal ... an enormously unattractive alternative."

The defence ministers will also decide what circumstances would justify pulling out the UN troops. And they may discuss suggestions for boosting humanitarian aid efforts. The US will resist moves by Congress to lift the arms embargo on the Bosnian government, said Mr Perry. This issue, and US pressure for tougher use of air power, have added to alliance splits over Bosnia. But both the European and American members will try to stress their unity at a meeting that will be dominated by the memory of recent and very public rows.

Casablanca (AFP) - Leaders of Islamic countries began a summit meeting yesterday aimed at adopting a united stand to stop Serb attacks on Muslims in Bosnia.