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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

France Calls for Force To Retake Srebrenica

PARIS -- France repeated calls for military action to retake the Moslem enclave of Srebrenica on Wednesday, winning cautious support from the United States but no public backing from Britain.


President Jacques Chirac said in comments to French lawmakers that failure to recapture Srebrenica -- taken by the Bosnian Serbs on Tuesday -- would cast the UN-Bosnia peacekeeping mission in doubt, and he hinted France would consider withdrawing its troops.


"If these enclaves are not respected and if the enclave of Srebrenica is not restored, then the entire mission of UNPROFOR is in question," Chirac told French senators.


"If we do not react -- I mean the international community since France obviously cannot act alone -- then we have to ask ourselves what purpose UNPROFOR is serving there and draw the appropriate conclusions."


His warnings were reinforced by comments from the Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, who said that the fall of Srebrenica had brought a withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping mission closer.


Izetbegovic said he was almost certain his government will ask the UN to leave Bosnia when its mandate expires in November.


"I am almost positive we shall not extend UNPROFOR's mandate after November," he told a news conference. "We're still considering the option to ask them to leave before."


Chirac said France was discussing with Britain, the Netherlands and Ukraine, the other main UNPROFOR troop providers, what could be done to protect eastern Bosnian enclaves under Serb attack.


The French ambassador to the UN, Jean-Bertrand Merimee, has also introduced a draft resolution at the UN that would call on UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali to "use all resources available to him to restore the status ... of the safe area of Srebrenica."


The White House responded by saying it would ask the French government for more information about its proposal on Srebrenica.


White House spokesman Mike McCurry said the proposal would be taken up at NATO as well as at the UN, but he said it was not clear what military resources might be available for recapturing the town even if the allies decided to do it.


"We're going to be in discussions with the French government to understand better what the president [of France] is proposing," McCurry told reporters in his office.


"We will have discussions with our allies on that subject," he said. "It is not clear how, it's not clear what military resources are available for military action."


But France received no public support from Britain, its main partner in the recently-created 10,000-man Rapid Reaction Force, and the top UN official in former Yugoslavia said there would be no attempt to retake Srebrenica.


"I don't think that will be possible," special UN envoy Yasushi Akashi told reporters when asked in Zagreb about the possibility of UN military intervention.


While world powers debated future military action in Bosnia, Russian lawmakers condemned NATO's response to Tuesday's Serb advance on Srebrenica. The State Duma voted to denounce the use of air strikes, saying they only led to new bloodshed and exacerbated the conflict.


"NATO's course of open support for one side in the conflict has frustrated international efforts to settle the conflict in the former Yugoslavia," the statement said. "The State Duma demands that NATO quickly and unconditionally stop its military intervention."


(Reuters, AP)