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Europe rejects Muslims' arms plea

Europe's major democracies called for more troops and arms Tuesday to defend safe havens in Bosnia but again refused calls by President Clinton _ and this time by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl _ to lift the embargo on arms for the beleaguered Muslims.

The plight of Bosnia hijacked and almost poisoned a summit meeting of the leaders of the 12-nation European Community called here to deal with Europe's recession and staggering unemployment.

When Kohl, after appeals from Clinton and Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, broke ranks on Bosnia late Monday night to call for lifting of the arms embargo, it was a bombshell. Other European leaders insisted that diplomacy be given yet another chance after Serbia and Croatia proposed dividing Bosnia into three parts _ the biggest for themselves.

In the final communique, the advocates of denying arms to the Muslims prevailed. But French President Francois Mitterrand then felt impelled to make up for it with more men and troops to protect the safe havens declared by the U.N. Security Council. That again put Europe's credibility to a test.

If they were not forthcoming quickly, he sternly warned the others Tuesday morning, the Muslims should be allowed to defend themselves against the Serbs and Croats trying to carve up the country.

"If we are not ready (to protect the save havens), then we must lift the embargo and withdraw our troops," he said referring to the 9,000 troops wearing U.N. blue helmets already on the ground to help protect relief supplies. Some 5,500 are from France.

"I still think that lifting the arms embargo would be the best policy," Kohl replied, "but I understand why others (who have troops there) don't want to do it."

U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has called for another 7,500 troops to bring the U.N. force to 16,500, with a toughened mandate to defend the six "safe" havens that have been anything but safe from continued Serb and Croat attacks.

Tentative steps

Nor was it clear where the money and men promised by the EC's final communique Tuesday would come from. France is beefing up the arms and equipment of its men. The Netherlands may be able to contribute some troops, but Spain and Denmark did not promise to increase their small contingents.

While Kohl indicated he could promise some money, the Germans still claim their constitution prevents them from sending troops, especially to such a sensitive area as the former Yugoslavia, which Germany occupied in World War II.

"Britain has made its contribution," quickly declared British Prime Minister John Major in indicating it would not increase its 2,500-troop contingent.

Major and Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd were foremost in adamant refusal to lift the arms embargo until everything else had failed. It would, they argued, only prolong the fighting, which might explode into yet another Balkan war.

Instead, they pressed the Bosnian Muslims to go back to the negotiating table with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. By proposing their own plan for the carving up of Bosnia last week, the Serb and Croat leaders killed the peace plan put forward by former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and British Foreign Secretary David Owen.

Vance has retired, and Owen admitted failure by saying he would do his best to help the Muslims in future negotiations.

The supporters of negotiation on the Serb-Croat proposals appeared to have won when an announcement came from the Croatian capital of Zagreb that Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic had been overruled and pushed aside by other members of Bosnia's collective presidency, headed by Muslim businessman Fikret Abdic and Franjo Boras, a Bosnian Croat. Only hours before, Izetbegovic flew here Monday in another vain appeal for arms.

While Europe's leaders _ Major, Mitterrand, Kohl and others _ still insisted they would not allow the Serbs and Croats to impose their proposals for dividing Bosnia on the Muslims, the claim sounded hollow in the wake of the unrelenting Serb advances and the European determination not to get involved beyond words.

And at their final news conference Tuesday, Major and Hurd maintained there is only so much the outside world can do.

Economic gloom

The hijacking of the summit by Bosnia was embarrassing. The 12 EC leaders came to talk not about that, but recession and unemployment expected to reach more than 17-million by next year. On the remedies, too, they were divided.

Jacques Delors, head of the EC Executive Commission, came up with figures showing that unemployment had steadily increased from less than 3 percent in the early 1970s to an expected 12 percent next year. Europe's share of industrial exports has fallen from 20 percent 10 years ago to 15 percent now.

What shocked and hurt most was that the United States has been producing four times as many jobs and that Europe's costs were running far ahead of those in the United States and Japan.

The new buzzword here became competitiveness.

For Major and Britain the fault lay in the heavy social costs for Europe's workers, the difficulty of hiring and firing and the lack of labor mobility.

For Delors and most of the Continental governments, the remedies included pushing ahead with European integration while maintaining the social gains they are so proud of.

Other measures he outlined included an increase in research and development, creating better infrastructure and educational reform.

While Major defended himself from charges of wanting to return to the 19th century, he also said that Europe could not become competitive if it continued to pile social cost upon cost. That didn't protect jobs, he claimed, only lost them.

Almost everyone agreed on the necessity for completing the negotiations this year for a new world trade agreement under negotiation for eight years in the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

But France proposed "trade preferences" that others called protectionism. It still wants to change a controversial EC agricultural agreement with the United States. Nothing will be settled until everything is settled, French officials argued, no matter how long it takes.

The leaders agree that negotiations should be pushed to add Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway to the EC roster by Jan. 1, 1995 _ if they still want to join.

The six countries of Eastern Europe _ the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria _ would have to wait until they met all the economic and political conditions for membership. So would others such as Turkey, Cyprus and Malta.

None of the above prevented the leaders from hailing their summit as a success.

Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the outgoing EC president, hailed it as a "watershed" in dealing with the economy and its promise to provide money and men to protect the safe havens in Bosnia.

For French President Mitterrand, "I go home very much more optimistic than when I came."