Force ruled out at Koresh camp

THE DEADLOCK between United States law enforcement agencies and besieged Branch Davidians apparently remained complete yesterday, as cult leader David Koresh delivered a second 'threatening' letter, and the FBI indicated it was not contemplating the use of force to end the stand- off, now in its 44th day.

This second communication, once more presented as a message from God, is if anything even more menacing than the four-page letter received on Friday. Enemies of the cult, it warned, would be 'devoured by fire and destroyed' if any harm came to 'my lamb' David Koresh.

At yesterday's daily briefing, an FBI special agent, Bob Ricks, conceded hopes of a peaceful end to the siege at tonight's conclusion of the Davidians' celebration of Passover had all but vanished. 'Those in the compound are willing to die for their belief that Koresh represents the second coming of Christ,' Mr Ricks said.

The FBI refuses to discuss its future tactics, but word here is that the White House, for the time being at least, has ruled out the use of force. FBI assault teams outside the Mount Carmel complex 10 miles from here deliberately let slip a chance of capturing Koresh's chief confidant, Steve Schneider, when he left the compound briefly at the weekend. The reason, according to Mr Ricks, was fear of exposing agents to fire from within the heavily armed compound.

Security forces, meanwhile, have virtually completed the new barbed wire encirclement of the 77-acre compound, put up both to permit an orderly exit in the event of surrender and prevent publicity-seekers and other Koresh faithful from entering.

The siege, which began with the firefight on 28 February in which four federal agents died, has now lasted longer than the Gulf war. More than 90 people are barricaded inside the compound, including 17 children and at least 25 Britons.

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