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As Talks Fail Pressure Mounts on Clinton to Bomb Serbians

By Stanley Meisler
Los Angeles Times


As Bosnian peace talks collapsed in Geneva, scores of prominent public figures -- including former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz -- added their weight Wednesday to mounting pressure on President Clinton to bomb Serbian troop positions in the former Yogoslav republic.

In an open letter to the White House, the large group of protesters urged Clinton to lead a coalition of Western governments in arming the Bosnian Muslims and in selective and descriminate bombing of Serbian positions and airfields.

"If we do not act, immediately and decisively," the letters said, "history will record that in the last decade of this century the democracies failed to heed its most unforgiving lesson."

Those signing the letter described that lesson as the certainty"that unopposed aggression will be enlarged and repeated, that a failure of will by the democracies will strengthen and encourage those who gain territory and rule by force."

In a similar letter, Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole of Kansas urged the president to switch his focus from Somalia to Bosnia and to convene a NATO summit "to establish a new diplomatic and military framework for addressing this conflict."

The best option, Dole went on, would be a revival of the Cinton administration's May proposals to use air power to turn back Serbian aggression while lifting the arms embargo that has crippled the defenses of the Bosnian Muslims. The European allies earlier spurned the Clinton plan.

The Geneva talks broke down after the Muslim-dominated Bosnian government refused to accept the peace plan proposed by former British Foreign Secretary Lord David Owen and former Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorvald Stoltenberg. That plan would divide Bosnia into a three-part confederation with the Serbs possessing 52percent of the territory, the Croats 17 percent, and the Muslims 31percent. The Muslims had asked for more territory, but the Serbs refused.

As he left the session, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said,"Unfortunately the war will continue." Bosnian Croat leader Mate Boban said, "The forces of death prevail."

State Department spokesman Mike McCurry said the breakdown of the talks "reflects the stubbornness of the Serbs in the face of reasonable demands from the Muslims." Air strikes, he continued,"remain very much on the table and the Serbs know that."

If the collapse in the negotiations leads to a renewed Serbian offensive against Sarajevo, the White House would find itself under even more pressure to bomb the Serbs.