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Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: My Lords, will my noble friend agree that this subject is of such vital and immediate importance that it does not really lend itself to oral question and answer at Question Time?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend. He is absolutely right. We are not in Bosnia to fight a war. UNPROFOR is not in Bosnia to fight a war. But we cannot impose a peace. UNPROFOR has already been asked to do too much with too little. What we have to do is make sure that UNPROFOR is better able to meet the mandate that it has been given.
Lord Richard: My Lords, while the Minister is absolutely right, and perhaps this is not a suitable subject for a question and answer session, unless it is a very long one, if the role of British forces in Bosnia were to change, either by intent or in factin other
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am quite certain that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is well aware of this matter. We must see how things go. I shall not speculate. It is dangerous. There are British lives and Bosnian lives at risk. We must do the best that we can. I assure the House that that is exactly what we are engaged in at present.
Lord Wyatt of Weeford: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the attempt to interfere in the complicated civil war in Yugoslavia was doomed from the start? Does she agree that we must now consider the best way to get our troops out safely before any more of them are killed in a hopeless attempt to pacify the area? For any such attempt, at least half a million troops would be required, and when they had left, the sides would begin fighting each other again.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I note the views of the noble Lord. However, there is no single right answer in this difficult situation. I frankly think that the least said the better it is for our troops and for all those in Bosnia who are suffering so terribly at the present time.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that our troops in UNPROFOR have done a remarkable job in preventing the conflict from spreading to Kosovo and Macedonia, let alone Bulgaria, Albania and other parts of the Balkans? Therefore, is it not vital that we continue to keep those borders monitored?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am very much in sympathy with my noble friend's remarks about the role that UNPROFOR has already played. As I said at the beginning, the number of lives saved has improved greatly with UNPROFOR's presence on the ground. There is no doubt that the observers in Macedonia and other bordering nations have helped to prevent the spread of war. However, there may come a time in the future when UNPROFOR cannot carry out its job, or cannot carry it out with less risk than now exists. We shall have to face that situation when it occurs.
Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, is the Minister aware that one is very conscious that one does not want to say anything that makes things more difficult for the military commanders on the ground and those in the capitals who must take these painful decisions? Does she agree that there will be profound hope in many places that it will prove possible to find an effective means of protecting Gorazde and getting a relief channel through to Sarajevo? Does she further agree that the alternative to UNPROFOR sustaining its credibility is the possibility of much more suffering on the ground inside Bosnia and many more dangers in the region, and indeed more widely than that region altogether?
Lord Annan: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Baroness will not agree with me, but has not the time come to consider whether to arm the Moslem forces in Bosnia? Does she not agree that there is an unfortunate parallel with our government's policy in the 1930s of non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War? That too seemed incomprehensible when both Hitler and Mussolini were arming General Franco's forces.
Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, is not the Minister aware that there was a three-hour debate in another place only last evening when both the Government and Official Opposition spokesmen were urging the utmost caution against any precipitate military action, as has just been suggested, because of the dangers to which it could lead? Would it not be better if we all waited until the Prime Minister reports on the conference being held this weekend?
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, does not the Minister agree that if there is a major change of circumstance, the point made by my noble friend Lord Richard is one that should commend itself to the House? After all, it is important for the Government to carry the House with them in the policies that they undertake in that area. Does the Minister agree also that talk of withdrawal simply spurs the Karadzic Serbs to further violations? It is extremely important in those circumstances that we must be vigorous in our determination to fulfil the United Nations' mandate by strengthening the position of the forces that are available there. Finally, does the Minister agree that it is a dangerous illusion to imagine that this deteriorating situation can be resolved by air power alone, which seems to be a prevailing view in the United States Congress?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. Should there be a major change of circumstance, my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal and the Leader of the Opposition in this House will no doubt consider whether your Lordships should be recalled. There is already a strengthening of the UNPROFOR forces by some 4,000 troops from Britain. They will ensure that we do whatever is necessary to bring this situation to a state of peace and cease-fire such as we enjoyed for nearly a year, or take whatever action then deemed necessary.
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