Bosnian party leader calls for Western military intervention

August 10, 1992|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,Staff Writer

ZAGREB, Croatia -- The intense, white-haired Bosnian political leader has none of the doubts expressed throughout Europe and the United States about military intervention in his country's war with Serbia.

"Intervention is absolutely needed, not only to save Bosnia but to save Europe," Salim Sabic, vice president of Bosnia-Herzegovina's governing Democratic Action Party, said yesterday.

Mr. Sabic sees military aid to Bosnia as a test of Western civilization's commitment to its own values.

"If the United States and Europe believe in the basis of this civilization and human rights, and they are on the side of the one who is attacked, then we need this intervention now,not tomorrow. Tomorrow is too late," he said.

He used a word to describe the Serbian government of President Slobodan Milosevic that the translator found difficult to translate. She finally settled on "bad element."

Air strikes appeal to Mr. Sabic as a means to curb this "bad element." And he does not think they should be confined to Bosnia. "Some positions deep in Serbian territory should be hit, to cut supplies," he said.

He would like first to see bridges on the Drina River bombed "because every day tanks come across from Serbia."

He would destroy military infrastructure in Serbia, airports at Belgrade and Titograd, and a harbor in Montenegro, Serbia's remaining ally from the former Yugoslavia.

He does not think outside powers should intervene with ground troops.

"Not a single soldier should land," he said.

He does think that Bosnia-Herzegovina should be armed. "If the people of Sarajevo could get 500,000 rounds of ammunition, 100,000 lives would be saved," he said. "Right now they are using rocks to fight the enemy in Sarajevo."

Mr. Sabic's view from Zagreb is not clouded by impartiality. He is one of the founders of the Democratic Action Party, the party led by Bosnia's president, Alija Izetbegovic.

Democratic Action is Bosnia's Muslim party, and Mr. Izetbegovic's election last year sparked the conflict with Serbia, which said it is fighting to protect the Serbian minority in Bosnia. Croatians make up the third ethnic group in Bosnia, smaller than the Muslim, larger than the Serbian.

Serbs do not need protection, Mr. Sabic said.

"This is a war for territory, conducted by Serbia," he said.

"It is not true, as some people say, that they came to Bosnia to protect Serbs."

The conversation with Mr. Sabic took place against the backdrop ofworldwide alarm at "ethnic cleansing" and shock at conditions described in prison camps that recall the Nazi concentration camps of World War II.

Mr. Sabic talked in the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel, which was abuzz with the bustle of United Nations peacekeeping troops in battle gear, International Red Cross officials, journalists, Bosnian and Croatian politicians, free-lance humanitarian groups and the just-plain curious. Amid this bustle, his opinions were clear and simple.

With intervention, the war could be "localized" by autumn, he said. Without intervention: "This will be a long war."

Meanwhile, Mr. Sabic said, Sarajevo reported a quiet day.

"This meant 23 dead and 156 wounded," he said.

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