French, Italian troops prepare to escort relief convoys in Bosnia

July 09, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

MUNICH, Germany -- France and other members of the European Community said yesterday that they intended to organize military escorts for overland relief convoys in war-torn Bosnia -- a decision that could put Europe in command of any military effort there.

French President Francois Mitterrand told reporters here on the final day of the annual summit of economic powers that the Western European Union (WEU), the EC's defense arm, intended to have a concrete plan for protecting the convoys ready tomorrow.

Other European officials said France and Italy had volunteered to put troops on the ground to ride shotgun with the new convoys, which would carry food and medicine to Sarajevo, the besieged capital of the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Tuesday, all seven leaders of the Group of Seven nations endorsed such military force if the United Nations Security Council found it necessary to guarantee the delivery of relief shipments. Yesterday, France and the other EC countries, in effect, were proposing an answer to who would provide the force.

The mission of organizing the convoys would be the first significant military operation ever undertaken by the WEU.

In Helsinki, Finland, the 52-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) agreed in principle yesterday to form peacekeeping missions that would work with the United Nations to intervene in conflicts in Europe.

The CSCE also suspended Yugoslavia from the group for 100 days and said the country would be expelled if it fails to help end the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina by then.

The CSCE peacekeeping role is to be adopted at a summit in Helsinki, Finland, today and tomorrow.

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