World prepares mixed message of support to Bosnia

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The Independent Online
NEW YORK - The international community was preparing to throw its weight behind President Bush's limp initiative threatening, but not prescribing, the use of force to get humanitarian aid to Bosnia's civilians. The Security Council is to vote on the resolution today, writes Leonard Doyle.

Diplomats have been agonised about the United Nations' failure to take sides in a conflict that is causing so much civilian suffering. Ambassadors who behave like armchair generals when discussing the need to humiliate Saddam Hussein are at a loss when asked to justify the policy of tolerating the 'ethnic cleansing' by Serbian forces of vast areas of Bosnia. They are also loth to justify the decision to maintain an arms embargo against the Bosnian government.

Appeals by Bosnia and by the countries of the Islamic Conference for the arms embargo against Bosnia to be lifted were roundly rejected by the resolution's sponsors: Britain, the United States, France, Belgium and Russia.

The decision to maintain the embargo has been justified on the grounds that sending more arms would prolong the conflict and make negotiations more difficult.

For Bosnia, the maintenance of the embargo flies in the face of the very UN Charter member states vow to uphold. Chapter Seven states that 'nothing in the Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self- defence if an armed attack occurs against (a UN member) until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security'.

The resolution which is expected to be adopted today will only allow the use of force to protect humanitarian aid convoys; it excludes action to protect those being tortured, executed or otherwise abused in Serbian detention centres. To avoid confusing the two issues, the US has prepared a separate resolution on war crimes.

At Austria's insistence a paragraph was added to the draft resolution condemning 'the practice of 'ethnic cleansing' ' and other violations of humanitarian law.

Diplomats made clear that even when the resolution is passed, it will not trigger a huge response, such as happened when the UN authorised 'all necessary means' to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. Asked whether the Council would take action to prevent, punish and suppress those guilty of 'ethnic cleansing' under the Convention on Genocide - as called for by Helsinki Watch - the official said, 'not now but maybe'.

LONDON - The presidents of all six republics of the former Yugoslavia have agreed to attend tomorrow's European Community peace conference, a British official said, Reuter reports.

ANKARA - Yugoslavia has decided to recognise Bosnia, according to a statement issued at the end of a visit by the Prime Minister, Milan Panic, yesterday, AP reports. There was no immediate indication when this might happen. The announcement could be aimed at thwarting any international military action against Serbian forces in Bosnia. In the past, Mr Panic has made comments indicating recognition could come for some of the former Yugoslav republics but nothing has ever developed.