US under domestic pressure to act

Click to follow
THE United Nations resolution authorising 'the use of all necessary means to ensure humanitarian relief' in Bosnia-Herzegovina could go to the Security Council as early as today, Brent Scowcroft, the US National Security Adviser, said yesterday.

'There are some differences of perspective, but we have common objectives,' Mr Scowcroft said, adding that he was confident a resolution could be worked out that would be acceptable to the other members of the Council.

But senior US officials were at pains to emphasise that they did not want to get involved in a civil war in what was Yugoslavia. The acting Secretary of State, Lawrence Eagleburger, confident that talks on the passage of a UN Security Council resolution had made progress, said: 'We don't want to get into a quagmire.' Mr Eagleburger would not define what Serbian action would trigger a military response by the UN, but he gave the impression that so long as Sarajevo airport remained open there should be no intervention. Both he and Mr Scowcroft described the conflict as a civil war, implying that the US does not see Serbia as an aggressor against Bosnia.

Mr Scowcroft said the situation in Bosnia was wholly different from Kuwait after the invasion by Iraq, because it was a civil war involving the break-up of a multi- ethnic society, not the invasion of one state by another.

Nevertheless, the administration is under heavy pressure to show results in the Bosnian conflict or lose political face at home. A Newsweek poll released at the weekend showed 53 per cent of Americans supporting air strikes against Serbian positions if they impede relief efforts. President George Bush's handling of the crisis so far was disapproved of by 38 per cent of respondents.

President Bush continues to advocate caution, but has given a press briefing every day since pictures of two Serbian detention centres for Bosnian Muslims were first shown on television on Thursday. While this focuses attention on his efforts it also makes him more vulnerable to criticism if the Serbian onslaught continues. The Democratic candidate, Bill Clinton, has maintained his lead over President Bush by 54 to 37 per cent, according to the Newsweek poll. Voters in Texas, Mr Bush's adopted home state, favour Mr Clinton over Mr Bush by 43 per cent to 29 per cent, according to a Houston Chronicle poll published yesterday.

Speaking at his home in Kennebunkport on Saturday, President Bush said: 'I am not sure the air strikes themselves would solve the problem.' But he added that before one soldier or Marine was committed to battle, he would want to 'know how that person gets out of there'.

A difficulty for President Bush is that Republican leaders are publicly divided over what to do in Bosnia, with interventionists and isolationists united only in blaming the West Europeans for failing to stop the conflict erupting.