LONDON -- Bob Dole, expected to become Senate majority leader, left here yesterday after making some conciliatory sounds but clinging to positions that anger the British: his desire to press airstrikes against Bosnian Serbs and lift the arms embargo for the Bosnian Muslims.
Both stands run counter to British views, United Nations policy and the Clinton administration's latest thinking. Mr. Dole did try to reassure the British, up to a point. "There isn't any rift between me and the prime minister," he said at dusk outside No. 10 Downing St. after an hourlong meeting with Prime Minister John Major.
"I am not here to create any problems for the prime minister or the British government or the troops on the ground in Bosnia," he said. "We have more in common than we have disagreements."
He told the prime minister he still favored lifting the arms embargo and allowing the Bosnians to defend themselves, even though it could put at risk the hundreds of British, French and other U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia.
He said he told Mr. Major he "had nothing but the highest respect for the protection forces on the ground in Bosnia.
"They're at risk every day," he said, but he declined to be drawn into discussion whether U.S. soldiers might be sent in to help U.N. troops to withdraw if that became necessary.
Mr. Dole's opinion carries considerable weight here not only because he is to become Senate majority leader, but also because many Britons believe he has a very good chance of becoming the next president.
He arrived here Tuesday morning from Brussels, Belgium, where he met with Willy Claes, the NATO secretary-general.
Although he reiterated his support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, he said NATO is "being blocked by an unwilling U.N." in the attempt to use airstrikes against Bosnian Serb positions.
Mr. Dole also met here with Douglas Hurd, the British foreign secretary; Malcom Rifkind, the defense secretary; and Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister -- now Lady Thatcher.
The diplomatic Mr. Hurd minimized any differences with Mr. Dole. However, he told the British Press Association that any pullout of U.N. troops might be unavoidable but would have "dire consequences" for Bosnia.
Mr. Rifkind, who had made the most waspish rejoinder to Mr. Dole's criticism of Britain and France on a Sunday television show, offered no comment after their meeting.
Lady Thatcher also declined to discuss her talks with Mr. Dole, but has indicated she shares his impatience with the U.N. efforts in Bosnia. She has supported his calls for airstrikes against the Serbs.
Earlier Tuesday, she had promised to do all she could for Bosnia in an emotional phone conversation with the mayor of Bihac, broadcast live on BBC.
"What is going on in some of those safe havens is aggression, murder, almost amounting to genocide," she said. "There is no peace to keep."