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U.S. Weighs New Bosnia Moves, Such as Bombing Serb Guns


WASHINGTON — Declaring that the United States has reached a "hinge point" in its Bosnia policy, Secretary of State Warren Christopher said Tuesday that the Clinton Administration is actively considering a wide range of options to stop Serbian aggression, including some that were rejected earlier, such as allied bombing of artillery positions.

"We now face a worsening environment in eastern Bosnia that has horrified the world," he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Christopher later joined other top officials at the White House to discuss a new list of difficult and dangerous measures to turn up the heat on Serbian forces.

While emphasizing that military action is possible, Christopher said President Clinton will act only in cooperation with other nations and will not go it alone.

"It is a hinge point to decide what steps might be taken and what are practical and what's going to be done multilaterally, because I don't think we intend to act unilaterally here," he said.

But in separate radio interviews, the defense ministers of Washington's two closest allies, Britain and France, demonstrated just how difficult it will be for the United States to fashion a military coalition to face down the Serbs.

Britain's Malcolm Rifkind and France's Francois Leotard said military action would disrupt United Nations relief efforts and endanger U.N. soldiers--largely British and French--who are delivering food and medicine.

"The U.N. mission in Bosnia is saving hundreds of thousands of lives," Rifkind told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. For his part, Leotard said that the world should wait to see the results of new sanctions voted last weekend by the U.N. Security Council.

Defense Secretary Les Aspin, testifying to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense, showed little enthusiasm for military action. He said that Clinton faces "a very, very difficult set of choices."

But on Capitol Hill, the Administration was coming under increasing pressure to go beyond the U.N.-imposed sanctions, which have shredded the economies of Serbia and Montenegro, the two republics that form what is left of Yugoslavia, but have failed in their objective of forcing Bosnian Serbs backed by the government of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to end their bloody campaign of "ethnic cleansing."

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) bluntly told Christopher that the situation has already gone far beyond "anything that you could conjure up" diplomatically.

"The West . . . has appeased Milosevic for so long that he has no reason to respond to our blandishments and our threats," Biden said. "The world (must) stop bemoaning the fact that all our options are bad ones. They are all bad ones. We've got to pick a couple."

Biden said that if the West had done nothing more than bomb artillery ringing the besieged town of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia, "we would have saved hundreds of women and children who are being absolutely massacred right now."

Christopher said the options under consideration include air strikes and exempting the Muslim-run Bosnian government from the U.N.-mandated arms embargo on all former Yugoslav republics. But he said there are drawbacks to all of the options.

Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's top military commander, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that allied bombing of Serbian artillery would have only a limited impact on the bloody conflict.

"There is no indication you can be sufficiently effective and sufficiently persuasive," said Shalikashvili.

Christopher said that the Administration launched its policy review primarily because of growing concern about the suffering of the Bosnian population. But he said the conflict also threatens vital American interests.

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