The Bush administration has confirmed that Serbian military forces have set up concentration camps in Bosnia, where non-Serb civilians are systematically tortured and killed. But a spokesman said the United States had no plans to intervene to try to stop such actions.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday the U.S. government strongly supports the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has demanded the right to inspect all the "detention centers," but he said the administration has no plans to take military action itself or to call on the United Nations to do so.
"Are we going to drop paratroops on it?" Mr. Boucher said. "I'm not going to say anything new about military action."
A senior State Department official said later that Washington knew of the camps "for weeks and months" but did not reveal the grim details until the newspaper Newsday reported this week that thousands of Muslim and Croat civilians have been shipped in sealed boxcars to the centers, where they are being held without sanitation or adequate food and where many have been shot to death by firing squads or had their throats slit.
Newsday based its report on interviews with survivors.
"We do know from our own reports . . . that the Serbian forces are maintaining what they call detention centers for Croatians and Muslims, and we do have our own reports -- similar to the reports that you've seen in the press -- that there have been abuses and torture and killings taking place in those areas," Mr. Boucher said.
"We have reports [that] Bosnians and Croatians also maintain detention centers, but we do not have similar allegations of mistreatment at those," he added.
In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross said all sides in the Yugoslav conflict are violating international law in their treatment of civilians from other ethnic groups.
Mr. Boucher agreed that no party is blameless. But he insisted, "We have pointed the finger very particularly and very specifically at the actions of the Serbian forces and the government in Belgrade in unleashing many of the attacks . . . Both in specific terms and in terms of overall policy they bore the overwhelming burden of responsibility for the violence that's going on."
Mr. Boucher rejected suggestions that the administration was doing too little to stop the Yugoslav atrocities.
He said Washington is prepared to use military force, if that proves to be necessary, to get relief supplies into besieged cities but he said it is not willing to send troops to rescue civilians from concentration camps.
[Meanwhile, fighting intensified across Bosnia and its besieged capital of Sarajevo today, Reuters reported. Bosnia's Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, declared a full mobilization to counter an offensive by Muslim and Croatian forces.
[Four people were killed and 20 wounded in overnight artillery exchanges it quoted the city's radio as saying.]