US rings alarm bells on Bosnia policy

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT Bill Clinton's National Security team, headed by the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, is expected to begin intensive consideration today of a revamped, and more activist, policy towards the crisis in Bosnia.

Mr Christopher has asked officials to prepare papers examining the possibility of bombing Bosnian Serb airfields and heavy weapons as part of a policy review. A Washington source said: 'the consensus is that the policy needs to be changed. The thinking seems to be that either we take a more active role or Serbia will continue to win.' The source confirmed that the three options of bombing airfields, targeting Bosnian Serb heavy weapons and lifting the arms embargo on Bosnia were all included in papers currently under preparation.

Mr Christopher said that Washington had to have very much in mind 'the outrageous situation that exists (in Bosnia) - killings, rapes, ethnic cleansing and situations that either border on genocide or are actually genocidal'.

What emerges will be of concern to the European powers, in particular to Britain. John Major will be anxious that US policy will not lead to any deepening of tensions that have already developed between himself and Mr Clinton.

The most publicised source of potential antagonism - hints dropped earlier this week by Mr Christopher of a possible extension of the membership of the United Nations Security Council - is being strenuously played down by British diplomats. Briefing his State Department staff, Mr Christopher conceded that space may have to be made for Germany and Japan.

Asked about that eventuality, Mr Christopher said: 'I think it's time for some reorganisation of the UN to bring it into keeping with modern realities. During the campaign, President Clinton said that he could envisage the addition of Germany and Japan . . . I suspect we'll see some developments in that direction.'

British sources insist that this was the least Mr Christopher could say. 'It barely raised an eyebrow here,' one said. He added: 'The Clinton administration can (suggest) Germany and Japan, but neither has actually said it wants seats. But there is a trail of at least eight other countries that do.'

Co-ordinating policy towards Bosnia carries much more immediate risk of disagreement, however. Remarks by a State Department spokesman this week that Mr Christopher has little faith in the peace plan being pursued in Geneva by Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance have sounded alarm bells. The suggestion of lifting the arms embargo on Bosnian Muslims may mean disagreement because Britain says it would lead to an intensification of the fighting.

The State Department is pressing ahead with plans to set up an international tribunal, in the US or at the World Court in The Hague, to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes in Bosnia. A list of such crimes was submitted to the UN by Washington on Tuesday. Britain agrees on the principle but would, for example, balk at naming Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader, while he is part of the Geneva conference.

The crunch is unlikely to come before the peace conference collapses, as Washington fears, or comes to some conclusion. It is probable at that point the need will arise for more manpower to be dispatched to the region.

Britain, in making plain this week that its military resources are at breaking-point, will be looking to its partners to make the necessary contribution - probably to Germany and also the US. 'At that point we would expect the Americans to make a contribution', one source said.

Baroness Thatcher and three former US presidents, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan yesterday used a full-page advertisment in the Washington Times to appeal to President Clinton and Congress to 'stop genocide in Bosnia', AP reports.

They were joined by Henry Kissinger and former Democratic presidential candidates George McGovern and Michael Dukakis.