Wary US keeps distance

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THE UNITED STATES will start humanitarian relief flights to Sarajevo today, but President George Bush yesterday spelt out his opposition to deploying US troops on the ground in Bosnia should fresh fighting halt the UN-backed aid effort.

Washington 'will not inject itself into every single crisis, however heart-rending, around the world', Mr Bush said at a news conference in reply to a question why he would not use US forces in Europe to end Bosnia's suffering. 'I'm not interested in seeing one single US soldier pinned down in a guerrilla war.'

Thus far, and then only with some reluctance, Washington has promised to use its air power to protect flights and overland convoys bringing supplies to Sarajevo. Today two US transports are to fly into the city, while the Pentagon confirmed yesterday that its naval detachment will be leaving the Adriatic coast, at least until after the weekend.

Thereafter, Mr Bush made clear, the US will intervene militarily only if UN forces come under direct assault, and then only in a well-defined 'in-and-out' operation. 'We're not going to let the Canadians get into harm's way without some support from here,' he said, referring to the Canadian peacekeeping force in Sarajevo. 'If we go in there, we're going to do what we said we'd do, and get out.' He dismissed suggestions that Nato should have moved earlier to end the bloodshed. The alliance and the continued presence of US troops in Europe, were intended as an 'insurance policy' to prevent wholesale conflagration in Europe. The Yugoslavia crisis was 'quite different' from the Gulf war and the invasion of one country by another - 'although some in Sarajevo wouldn't agree with that'.

The crisis is likely to dominate next week's Group of Seven summit. Mr Bush warned against expectations of any breakthrough in the talks on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. 'We still have big differences, especially on agriculture. We haven't given up but there's very little time left.'