French Back Chirac’s Tough Line, World Anger Builds Against Serbs
PARIS (AP) _ French citizens angered by images of their troops chained and humiliated at the hands of Serb fighters in Bosnia backed their country’s tougher stance Sunday.
As increasingly angered world leaders discussed their next steps in a conflict reaching fever pitch, France threatened to withdraw its 3,800 troops in Bosnia _ the largest contingent there.
At the same time, it sent an aircraft carrier to the Bosnian coast and told its troops to respond with ``any means″ to Serb attacks while the United Nations considered a tougher mandate.
Hundreds of U.N. troops are Serb hostages, some human shields against any further NATO air strikes.
``If they stay, they should take more action. To be shot at I think is inadmissible,″ said Thierry Lacoste, 26, an electrical technician.
Martine Dussol, a baker, said the French peacekeepers ``should stay because they make up a military force that keeps it from exploding there.″
But the French resolve could weaken if the death toll among their troops _ already at 39 _ rises. If that happens, ``we should go and let the Bosnians get by on their own,″ Lacoste said.
French President Jacques Chirac, facing his first crisis since taking office 1 1/2 weeks ago, on Saturday demanded a new U.N. mandate ``that will allow the U.N. troops to make themselves respected.″
The French aircraft carrier Foch, accompanied by a missile-launching frigate and two transport ships, left Sunday from the Mediterranean port of Toulon for the Bosnian coast.
Authorities did not disclose the number of troops or planes heading toward the Adriatic Sea.
In a television interview Sunday night, French Premier Alain Juppe said his government was urging that U.N. troops in Bosnia be redeployed in larger groups that they be better armed.
``We can’t continue to let small groups of U.N. troops be isolated in the middle of Serb troops. That’s what happened last week,″ he said, referring to Serb attacks on U.N. posts. ``We must therefore regroup them so they are easier to defend.″
Unless the troops can be reinforced, ``one must consider starting a withdrawal plan,″ he said.