Portillo fires warning salvo for Fusiliers

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The Independent Online
Rehearsing the options for the Bosnian "safe area'' of Gorazde to a sombre House of Commons last night, Michael Portillo warned that anyone who harmed the Royal Welch Fusiliers in the enclave would be held "personally responsible".

To withdraw - an option again demanded by a minority of Tories - might be militarily hazardous and would leave the Muslims in the enclaves at the mercy of the Bosnian Serbs, the Secretary of State for Defence said. "The humanitarian disasters ahead could dwarf the horrors than we have seen to date."

But with other Tories and Labour urging more robust action, Mr Portillo said reinforcing the 200-strong British detachment posed "significant practical problems. We do not have the men nor the guns in former Yugoslavia to stave off a determined onslaught by many thousand Bosnian Serbs."

The road from Sarajevo to Gorazde passed through hostile territory while to reinforce by helicopter carried possibly greater risks. Air defences would need to be destroyed by a massive pre-emptive attack with the all the risks of military escalation.

Robin Cook, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said the United Nations must stay in the former Yugoslavia unless commanders on the ground said it was too dangerous. "The message we are in danger of sending to [the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic] by talking of withdrawal is that with a little more pressure we will pack up and get out of their way. If we permit the borders of Bosnia to be redrawn by military force we are sending a profoundly destabilising message across central and eastern Europe,'' he said.

Mr Portillo's predecessor, Douglas Hurd, in his first speech from the Tory back benches, suggested the threat of withdrawal could be used as a lever on the warring parties. If the UN withdrew and the arms embargo was lifted, he said: "I don't believe