Leading Article: The will does exist to relieve Sarajevo

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THE SCORES of fax messages received by the Independent yesterday showed that many readers were moved by our call to save the city of Sarajevo. Their contents were a reminder that while British voters are supposed to have become weary of the plight of Bosnia's Muslims, many feel renewed anguish at the moral and political issues involved.

Some correspondents made comparisons with the disastrous appeasement of Nazism in the Thirties. Others deplored the mismatch between the European Community's ambitions for foreign-policy co-operation and the grim reality of its intervention in the former Yugoslavia; still others warned of the evil precedent that will be set if the Muslims are abandoned and the United Nations flouted - a point underlined by the reaction of UN commanders in the field yesterday to the apparent Serbian attack on their positions. Readers wrote in from Edinburgh to Exeter; they ranged from churchmen to management consultants, and from schoolchildren to grandmothers in their eighties.

A small minority pointed out that, beneath the rhetoric, those who are responsible for the foreign policy of the industrial countries rarely pay much attention to scruples. Yet to a government that must face the voters before it can be re-elected, public support can be as vital an interest as safe supplies of oil. Whatever their own views on the matter, ministers should note the depth of feeling expressed in the first tranche of the correspondence published today.

The scope of the intervention that the Independent advocated was carefully limited. There should be no illusions about the complex issues surrounding the war, nor about the military resources required if the western powers were to impose their own solution. But Sarajevo itself can be relieved if the will is there.

Today, the spotlight is likely to move to Geneva and to attempts by Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg to arrange a peaceful partition of Bosnia. Whether it can be right to enclose the Muslims in a cage where they may be subject to further aggression is a matter that will weigh heavily on the minds of western diplomats at the talks.

But the Muslims themselves are desperate; that is why Alija Izetbegovic, their leader, was forced to leave Sarajevo for Geneva while the city was under Serbian bombardment. The priority for the Government here, however, should be to open the road to Sarajevo.