US searches for new policy on Balkans crisis

Click to follow
The Independent Online
AS WASHINGTON continued its search for a new strategy towards the crisis in the Balkans, officials announced yesterday that the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, would hold talks with the United Nations in New York on Monday.

Although Mr Christopher is expected to use his visit to underline the new administration's support for the UN's expanding role in post-Cold War peace-keeping, there is scant sign that he will be in a position to unveil any complete US policy on the continuing Balkan crisis.

Mr Christopher received a wide-ranging policy review document from State Department staff only on Tuesday. The paper is said to consider every possible approach, ranging from sticking with the status quo as pursued by the Bush administration to committing US ground forces in the region.

The State Department document offers no conclusions, however. That will be left to the National Security Council and President Bill Clinton himself. Plans for a full meeting of the Council, with Mr Clinton attending, have been put off until early next week, sources said.

'We're involved in an attempt to explore every imaginable possibility,' one official commented. 'It's not that there's a set of options under active consideration. It's much broader than that. It's an effort to ask first questions again. And there should be no assumption anything is off limits.'

Among immediate priorities in the US view are likely to be exempting Bosnian Muslims from the arms embargo currently imposed on all the warring factions; forcing Serbia to end its practice of ethnic cleansing; supplying food and other supplies to besieged civilians and securing the release all those still believed to be detained in camps. United States intelligence believes that 70,000 are still in detention, mainly in Serbian installations.

If a more activist strategy is adopted, Mr Clinton is likely to come under pressure to provide personnel for peace-keeping duties, eventually, perhaps, for offering security to the inhabitants of Sarajevo. Another possibility raised in the options paper would be a strategy to encircle Serbia with a multi-national force to protect against the spread of the conflict.

The administration was lobbied on Wednesday by members of the Bosnian presidency during a visit to the White House. Ejup Ganic, the Bosnian Vice-President, pressed especially for the lifting of the arms blockade and the enforcement of the no-fly zone over Bosnia.

But both proposals face opposition at the UN from Russia. 'We should have the right to defend ourselves,' Mr Ganic told reporters after his meeting.

Administration sources warned however that any decision, even on the arms embargo, 'is not imminent'.

Leading article, page 18