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U.S. to Submit a Resolution Lifting Ban of Weapons Sales to Bosnia

By Stanley Meisler
Los Angeles Times
UNITED NATIONS

U.S. Ambassador Madeleine K. Albright, acting under a controversial congressional mandate, will formally submit a resolution Friday to the Security Council to lift the ban on arms sales to embattled Bosnia-Herzegovina, a U.S. official said.

The resolution, the official said, would call for an end to the ban in six months. Many U.N. diplomats see little chance of council approval. Some predict that the Clinton administration will never even put the proposal to a vote.

But the American official insisted the sentiment of other Council members had not been fully tested. "We want to see the formal reaction from the other countries," he said. "After we get the responses, we will decide what we will do and when."

Plans for the embargo resolution and a related U.N.-NATO "agreement in principle" on air strikes appear to be the last remnants of the administration's early policy of advocating "lift and strike" - lift the embargo on selling arms to the Muslim-led Bosnian government while launching air strikes at the Bosnian Serb aggressors.

The "agreement in principle" on air strikes was worked out by negotiators from the United Nations and NATO at U.N. headquarters Thursday. U.N. officials said details would not be announced until the agreement is approved by the North Atlantic Council and secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

But it is understood that the two sides agreed that the United Nations would submit three or four proposed targets to NATO planes when Bosnian Serbs violate exclusion zones of Sarajevo and Gorazde or endanger lives of U.N. peacekeepers. It would then be up to NATO pilots to choose one of the targets for attack.

Under pressure from the administration, NATO had said it wanted authority for a "more robust" response to violations - the right to attack strategic targets such as munitions dumps, arms factories and military headquarters.

But the United Nations, including its military commanders, have long insisted that retaliation must be "proportionate" - wiping out of a tank or artillery piece or other heavy weapon in violation of the exclusion zones. Otherwise, the United Nations said, the Serbs would retaliate against lightly armed peacekeepers.

America's allies have been reluctant to lift the arms embargo, fearing an influx of arms would intensify the fighting and subject peacekeepers, most of whom are French and British, to retaliation. The British and French have said they will withdraw their peacekeepers if the ban is lifted.

The resolution is opposed by Britain, France and Russia - all with veto power. But the veto may not need to be invoked, since most diplomats believe it would not be supported by more than six of the 15 Council members; a resolution needs nine affirmative votes for approval.