Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Britain Questions Bosnia Duty Worried about Their Troops, British Planners Concede They Are Considering Pulling Them Out

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Britain Questions Bosnia Duty Worried about Their Troops, British Planners Concede They Are Considering Pulling Them Out

Article excerpt

TWO weeks after it happened, defense planners are still seething about an incident involving British troops near the Bosnian town of Kiseljak. Their mood of sustained indignation helps to explain why London's perspective on the fighting in the former Yugoslavia is changing.

The soldiers, patrolling in two armored cars as part of a United Nations "Convoy of Joy" bringing food to besieged Muslim areas, were ambushed on June 10 by Muslim fighters. The Muslims dragged the peacekeepers from their vehicles, threatened them with rocket launchers, made them lie on the ground, and stole their weapons.

UN rules of engagement prevented the British detachment from defending itself. The reaction in London, when news of the incident was relayed to defense officials, was incandescent anger in private and measured indignation in public.

David Howell, chairman of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, captured the mood of his fellow parliamentarians when he spoke of his "horror" at the humiliation of the peacekeepers. British troops, he insisted, "must not be left in an impossible position." Armed Forces Minister Jeremy Hanley conceded that there was "a contingency plan for British withdrawal from Bosnia."

Withdrawal is not being contemplated as an immediate option, but behind the scenes defense planners are beginning to question seriously the wisdom of keeping 4,500 British troops in Bosnia, now that the UN- and EC-sponsored Vance-Owen peace plan has been abandoned, and a three-way carve-up of Bosnia on ethnic lines appears probable.

"At the very least," a government adviser said, "there needs to be a revision of the UN mandate, which currently does not give our troops the right to defend themselves against the kind of indignity they were forced to suffer in the Kiseljak incident."

The crisis is being monitored "every passing minute," Mr. …

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