Hurd seeks to stiffen US arms ban on Bosnia

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ENDING the arms embargo on Bosnia might become inevitable if the Bosnian Serbs reject the latest proposals for partition, the Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, said yesterday in Washington.

In visits to Capitol Hill, however, Mr Hurd sought to reinforce the US administration's efforts to stop an amendment ending the arms embargo on Bosnia being attached to a defence appropriations bill which the Senate started to consider yesterday.

Speaking to senators, Mr Hurd stressed the immediate dangers to Bosnian Muslim enclaves and the UN troops in Bosnia if the US ended the embargo unilaterally. He said the present 'sporadic peace' would give way to all-out war.

British officials deny that lobbying senators on Bosnia was the sole object for Mr Hurd visiting Washington but say the situation there was the subject of 40 per cent of his talks. The White House failed to stop the House of Representatives voting to end the embargo earlier in the month, despite sending senior officials to argue against it. The Senate is likely to follow suit in the next few days.

Criticising Mr Hurd, a supporter of allowing the Bosnian Muslims to arm themselves said: 'When he looks at Bosnia he sees Northern Ireland.' Steve Walker, a former State Department official who resigned last year over US policy in Bosnia, noted yesterday that the British embassy had lobbied congressmen against voting to end the embargo.

The British position is that dropping the embargo would re-ignite the war on the ground and not necessarily benefit the Bosnian Muslims in the face of Bosnian Serb attack. Enclaves like Gorazde are militarily indefensible.