Secretary of State James A. Baker III called Tuesday for Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia's expulsion from the United Nations and other international organizations to punish it for "outrageous, barbaric and inhuman" aggression in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Baker's demand was part of an evolving U.S. effort to brand Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic an international outcast, a step that could clear the way for the world community to take military action to reverse the Serbian invasion of neighboring republics that have declared their independence from the Belgrade government.
Although Baker continued to emphasize economic, political and diplomatic sanctions, he told a Senate committee that it is becoming increasingly clear that military action might be the only way to assure the delivery of food and medicine to the beleaguered population of Sarajevo and other cities and towns in Bosnia.
He said that the United States will not use armed force on its own but he said that if an international military coalition is created, Washington would play a major role.
A White House official said that the National Security Council is considering multinational military action. "It's continuing to evolve rather quickly," the official said.
In addition to calling for Yugoslavia's ouster from world organizations, Baker said that the United States should expel Yugoslav Ambassador Dzevad Mujezinovic and close Yugoslavia's only remaining U.S. consulate, in Chicago.
"As this nightmare drags on, the willingness of countries around the world to see it happen or stand by as it does happen is going to diminish and diminish and diminish," Baker told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed stiff economic sanctions against Serbia and its tiny ally, Montenegro, but traditional allies of Serbia, such as Russia, have shown some reluctance to go much further. Baker clearly hopes to wear down that opposition and cobble together an anti-Milosevic alliance, just as he helped to build the coalition that fought Iraq.
Baker's proposals were applauded by the committee, a redoubt of lawmakers who already have demanded a more forceful U.S. response. However, Capitol Hill sources said there is only limited support so far for U.S. military action, even in concert with other nations.
"It's hard to believe, in this day and age, that armed forces will fire artillery and mortars indiscriminately into the heart of a city, flushing defenseless men, women and children out into the streets and then shooting them," Baker said. "The world has condemned the Belgrade government for these outrages. It has imposed sanctions on the regime there, but in our view more must be done."
Baker said that the steps he advocated Tuesday were only his recommendations to President Bush. And White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said that no final decisions have been made. But it is inconceivable that the usually cautious Baker would go public with a proposal that he was not absolutely certain the President would endorse.
The measures are aimed at further isolating Milosevic and preventing his Serbia-Montenegro alliance from becoming the legal successor to Yugoslavia. With the other four republics declaring their independence, Serbia and Montenegro are the only parts of the disintegrating federation that continue to call themselves Yugoslavia.
Baker said that Serbia and Montenegro should not be permitted to rejoin the United Nations and other organizations unless they comply "with all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and with the criteria set for other new states."
Although U.S. officials said that sanctions such as those sought by Baker strike at the heart of Milosevic's desire for international legitimacy, there is a growing realization that military action may be the only way to break the siege of Sarajevo.
When Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said that the only way to deliver food and other supplies to Bosnia is for the United Nations to shoot its way in, Baker replied: "I don't disagree with that and, more and more, that's looking like it is absolutely true."
Times staff writer Douglas Jehl contributed to this article.