The G7 Summit: The games that statesmen play: Annika Savill, Diplomatic Editor, on how world leaders use Yugoslavia as a bat with which to hit each other.

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The Independent Online
'CAN YOU imagine,' said a French source yesterday, 'how furious Baker will be to find the WEU (Western European Union) holding a meeting about military intervention right under his nose in Helsinki?' He was speaking after confirmation that the European defence body would hold an emergency meeting, about possible deployment in Bosnia, on the margins of the Conference on Security and Co- operation in Europe (CSCE) summit tomorrow.

You may well ask why there is a need for a third summit to add to the alphabet soup that marks this week already, and whether the people of Bosnia will be any better off for it. If the idea of sending WEU troops to the former Yugoslavia comes to anything, it is possible they might. But the road so far has less to do with the victims of the real war than with half-a- dozen sets of conflicting self-interests being pursued in a Bavarian castle.

To make Mr Baker furious is precisely what the French want in their quest to show that the Americans are not indispensable to the defence of Europe. That is why President Mitterrand, over dinner on Monday night, started suggesting privately to his fellow world leaders that it might be an idea to have 'non UN-troops with the right to fire back' defending the road to Sarajevo airport. The British, to make the French appear confused in their thinking, leaked this to reporters, whereupon French officials denied it the next morning and throughout most of the rest of the day. Privately, French diplomats admitted Mr Mitterrand had suggested the idea without prior consultations with the Quai d'Orsay or anyone else.

The French had already forged a partnership with the Italians in jumping on Lord Carrington, the EC mediator. The Italians had leaked what they said was a French plan to widen Lord Carrington's conference to include the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the states neighbouring Yugoslavia. The French said at first that the plan was for the Five and 'interested parties' but this became 'neighbouring countries' in the Italian translation. Why? Because Italy neighbours Yugoslavia but, unlike France, is not one of the permanent five.

British officials were trying to save Lord Carrington's face and delay any talk of ground-troop deployment, since Britain itself is not planning to send any. On Monday a British official said Lord Carrington was 'not particularly excited' about the idea of his mission being overtaken. Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, having spoken to Lord Carrington twice since, said the negotiator now 'welcomed' the involvement of 'other parties concerned' but said there was little point in doing anything, given the lack of 'will for peace'.

A consolation prize was cobbled together in that the G7 summit's declaration on Yugoslavia included, at Britain's insistence, a reference to the Carrington conference as a 'key forum' for ensuring a political solution. Even this, however, became the subject of squabbling: the British had wanted the phrase 'the forum', the French 'a forum'. In the end, confusion reigned as the printed statement had 'a' and the text read out by the chairmen 'the'. The French text skipped the article altogether by employing a suitably ambiguous phrase.

An official representing Canada, the only country which has sent any ground troops to Bosnia so far, revealed that the idea of sending troops from France, Egypt and East Ukraine to match Bosnia's religious mix was actually a French idea: 'The French would have liked to go on their own to get all the glory. But they knew that wasn't on because of France's pro-Serb image, for one thing.' He also disclosed that when he spoke to the Ukrainians three days ago it was not clear whether they were going at all.

SARAJEVO (Reuter) - Heavy fighting broke out in the city last night as Serbs used tanks for the first time in weeks, apparently firing at the Bosnia-Herzegovina presidential building. Journalists at the nearby Holiday Inn said much of the firing came from areas south of the river Miljacka which bisects the city.