France Threaten to Withdraw Troops from Bosnia
PARIS (AP) _ Saying peacekeepers in Bosnia were becoming hostages, France threatened Tuesday to withdraw its troops _ the largest contingent in the U.N. force _ unless new security measures were taken.
The warning followed the killings last week of two French peacekeepers in Sarajevo, raising the total of French deaths in the former Yugoslavia to 33, more than any other nation contributing to the U.N. force.
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, at a news conference in New York, explained France’s demand for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
``One cannot ask soldiers to accomplish a mission for which they don’t have the means,″ he said. ``We’re allowing a situation to develop that turns our soldiers into hostages. We cannot stay in the status quo.″
Juppe said France sought clearer definition of the peacekeepers’ mission in Bosnia, including guidelines on when they can return fire.
Earlier in the day, Juppe had joined Premier Edouard Balladur, Defense Minister Francois Leotard and top French military officials at an emergency meeting in Paris to discuss the situation in Bosnia.
Balladur’s office later said France would ask the Security Council to enforce respect for the U.N. mission in Bosnia; extend a tattered cease-fire that is due to expire May 1 and renew talks among the warring parties.
If these initiatives fail, France ``must decide in favor of the withdrawal of French soldiers in Bosnia,″ the premier’s office said.
The statement didn’t say whether France would withdraw its peacekeeping troops from Croatia. France has a total of 4,500 soldiers in former Yugoslavia, most of them in Bosnia.
In all, about 44,000 soldiers from 38 countries are deployed in the countries of former Yugoslavia.
NATO has drawn up contingency plans for a force of up to 40,000 allied troops to protect U.N. peacekeepers if they are forced to withdraw from Bosnia in hostile conditions. But officials at NATO headquarters in Brussels said they had received no request from France to accelerate evacuation plans.
Juppe met in New York with U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, the British and German foreign ministers and with U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
Two French peacekeepers were killed Friday and Saturday by snipers in Sarajevo. Paris has demanded the ``murderers″ be identified and punished.
Gen. Herve Gobilliard, the French commander of peacekeepers in Sarajevo, said his experts suspected that one of the French soldiers was killed by a Serb sniper and the other by fire from a soldier with the Muslim-led Bosnian government army. But he said investigations had not been completed.