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U.S. Reviews Deteriorating Situation in Balkans

By Don Oberdorfer
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

The Clinton administration began its formal consideration of the deteriorating situation in the Balkans Thursday after receiving a grim report that relief supplies are falling far short of minimum requirements in Bosnia.

After a White House meeting of the high-level "principals committee" of the National Security Council, Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher told reporters that the initial discussion of "a very wide range of options" suggested that no decisions are near.

According to one official, the options included the use of U.S. ground troops in the states of the former Yugoslavia -- which President Clinton virtually ruled out in statements before taking office -- to the use of U.S. air power, to no new action at all. An official familiar with some of the papers, prepared by various government departments, said no particular course of action was recommended in those that he had seen.

Also at the meeting, chaired by national security adviser Anthony Lake, were Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, CIA Director-nominee R. James Woolsey and Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Clinton, who did not attend, will take up the Balkans and other urgent foreign policy issues at his first full-scale National Security Council meeting, expected to take place next week.

One of the reports discussed at the meeting said that from late November through mid-January, less than half of the minimum requirement of food for the people of Bosnia was supplied by relief organizations and other sources. The supply of needed medicine was even more inadequate, this report said.

Increased fighting in the region appears to have decreased the feasibility of outside intervention. Reports from the area suggest that the spread of fighting to Croatia may precipitate the withdrawal of French peace-keeping forces, and that Sadako Ogata, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, is reviewing the presence of U.N. relief workers.

U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali warned Wednesday that the renewed fighting in Croatia endangered the peace process being pursued by Cyrus R. Vance and Lord Owen, and might lead him to recommend withdrawal of all 16,000 peace-keeping troops in the Balkans. The State Department, responding to his remarks, cautioned Thursday that total withdrawal of the peace-keepers would probably result in broadening the conflict.

President Turgut Ozal of Turkey, describing outside intervention in Bosnia as late, Thursday called for the arming of Bosnian Muslims and the use of air power to contain Bosnian Serbs in an address to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Ozal expressed urgent concern about the potential spread of the fighting to Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria. Should this happen, he warned, Greece would probably become involved and Turkey could not "stay idle" while fellow Muslims were killed.