Letter: Direct action to end Sarajevo siege

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Sir: Shortly before the last general election, I took part in a discussion with Douglas Hurd about our policy in Yugoslavia. He deployed the usual Foreign Office arguments against direct involvement, and I suggested that a policy which was viable so long as 'only' 10 or 20 people a day were being killed could not be sustained if the casualty rate reached 500 a day.

It has been obvious for many months that a new policy is needed to lift the siege of Sarajevo and to stop ethnic cleansing in a country that ought to be part of the wider European community.

A positive policy to end the fighting should be designed to have the maximum political impact and should cause a minimal loss of life. It should try to avoid the use of ground troops whenever possible. We should also recognise that putting pressure on the government in Belgrade is an effective way of checking the Bosnian Serbs.

The Serbian economy is already reeling from the strain of fighting and the imposition of UN sanctions. Obviously, the collapse of the Serbian economy would accelerate if first electricity and then petrol was cut off.

A few weeks ago the United States fired a salvo of cruise missiles at the Iraqi intelligence headquarters, with tacit UN approval. If, and when, the Serbian forces in Bosnia break an agreement that has been negotiated, the UN should sanction the destruction - with the cruise missiles - of a power station near Belgrade.

A few hours' warning could be given so that the Serbian authorities could evacuate the area, if they wanted to.

If the Serbs retaliated against UN forces on the ground and if the siege of Sarajevo was not lifted quickly, further action could be taken against power stations and petrol depots that supplied the major towns in Bosnian Serbia.

The physical curtailment of electricity and petrol supplies could be seen as an extension of UN sanctions already in place. It would seem to be a more sensible use of power than trying to knock out gun emplacements in the Bosnian mountains.

Yours faithfully,


London, W14

13 August