U.S. would force path with other nations for aid to Sarajevo, Baker says Warning to Serbs marks escalation

June 24, 1992|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The United States signaled yesterday that if necessary it would mount a multinational operation to force a clear path for humanitarian aid into Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"We will consult and coordinate with others on additional steps to be taken, including steps that would ensure that the relief operation is no longer blocked in Sarajevo," Secretary of State James A. Baker III told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Until now, the administration has said it would await a United Nations-supervised cease-fire and agreement by Serbs to allow the airport to reopen before sending U.S. military forces to join a multilateral relief operation.

But yesterday's warning by Mr. Baker went beyond that, indicating that unspecified further actions could be taken to make sure the relief operation moves forward. It came as Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, the chief U.N. negotiator in Sarajevo, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that he had abandoned hope of quickly getting the necessary two-day truce.

"We're talking to allies about ways of turning the heat up," a U.S. official said.

Mr. Baker also announced new sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro, which want to be recognized as the successor state to Yugoslavia, that increase their international isolation and combat the "barbaric" and "inhuman" assault by Serbian forces in Bosnia.

The moves reflected both mounting frustration in the Bush administration over what Mr. Baker called the "humanitarian nightmare" of Bosnia and a growing fear the war will directly affect U.S. security interests.

Brent Scowcroft, President Bush's national security adviser, said Monday that "as the conflict goes on and defies attempts at solution, the risks of it directly impinging on the interests of the Euro-Atlantic community increase."

Mr. Baker continued to rule out a solo U.S. use of force "to achieve a political solution." But he made multinational action seem increasingly likely, while stressing that Mr. Bush had made no decision.

In response to a question from Sen. Richard G. Lugar, an Indiana Republican, Mr. Baker said that "as this nightmare drags on . . . the willingness of countries around the world to see it happen or stand by as it does happen is going to diminish and diminish and diminish. That's my own personal view, and I think it is an absolute outrage and it is barbarism at its worst extreme."

He agreed with Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Delaware Democrat, who said that "the ability to provide humanitarian assistance seems almost directly conditioned upon the ability to have the force sufficient to insist that it be able to be delivered."

At the same time, Mr. Baker warned that military action could suck the United States into the same problems that confronted German forces in Yugoslavia in World War II.

At the Pentagon, spokesman Pete Williams said the military was still awaiting word from the United Nations that conditions for moving humanitarian supplies had been met.

Acting through NATO, under a U.N. umbrella, the United States would airlift supplies and have people on the ground to direct flights, officials say.

The actual U.N. peacekeeping force, however, would be made up largely of Canadians.

A Western diplomat familiar with almost daily contacts between the United States and other NATO members on Yugoslavia noted that it would "never be easy to secure any part of that ground at all" and cautioned against expecting "aggressive actions to open the airport."

Last month, U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali ruled out a U.N. invention force to end the fighting, saying this would require tens of thousands of troops equipped for potential combat.

The new sanctions include shutting the only remaining Yugoslav consulate in the United States, refusal to accept Belgrade's ambassador in Washington and and a broadened effort to suspend Serbia and Montenegro from international institutions.

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