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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Embargo Deal Hits Roadblock

UNITED NATIONS -- A compromise proposal on lifting the arms embargo in Bosnia-Herzegovina came close to collapse this week under the weight of rejection by key European countries. The rejection could compound President Clinton's difficulties with Congress over the issue.


News of the near collapse was disclosed to the United Nations General Assembly by Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic who outlined the compromise, then told the delegates, "Unfortunately, I have learned that this compromise is reaching resistance and even rejection from some ... friends."


Under the compromise, which was acceptable to Clinton, Bosnian officials had requested that the Security Council pass a resolution lifting the embargo on arms sales to Bosnia but delaying its implementation for six months. The delay was designed to placate British and French officials who had threatened to remove their peacekeepers from the UN force in Bosnia if the embargo were lifted.


But in meetings with British and French officials, Izetbegovic was informed that they would reject lifting of the embargo, even with the six-month delay, UN sources said.


A U.S. official said, however, a British and French rejection "did not mean that this compromise is still not on the table." And he added that the situation "could evolve in the coming weeks."


The United States, Russia, Britain, France and Germany have joined in a "contact group" to work out a peace settlement in Bosnia, and the Clinton administration would like to fashion a unified position on the arms embargo.


Elaborating on his government's position, a French official said France could consider the compromise if the resolution did not automatically lift the arms embargo in six months, and if UN peacekeeping troops were protected during this time.


France might accept a resolution, the official said, that provided for lifting the embargo after six months on condition that this were confirmed by a second vote of the Security Council or was recommended by the secretary general.


The Security Council imposed the embargo before the civil war in Bosnia erupted more than two years ago.


Once the war began, the embargo was less troubling for the Bosnian Serbs -- who received arms from their allies in Serbia, which had most of the weapons that once belonged to the Yugoslav federation. But the Muslim-dominated Bosnian government had no such cache of weapons.


"Justice has turned into injustice," Izetbegovic told the General Assembly, "because the aggressor had weapons -- which had been stockpiled over 40 years time -- while the victim was unarmed, and its hands were kept tied."