Secretary of State Warren Christopher, attempting to soothe American allies on Bosnia-Herzegovina, promised Saturday that Washington will not break a U.N. embargo by supplying weapons to Muslim forces.
A U.S. decision to withdraw from the international naval blockade enforcing the embargo has upset countries that have troops serving with the U.N. Protection Force in Bosnia.
Christopher--in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum--said the United States has no intention of supplying weapons to Muslim-led Bosnian government forces.
President Clinton ordered U.S. warships in the Adriatic to stop intercepting vessels suspected of smuggling arms for the Muslims beginning midnight Saturday.
"I wouldn't say it will have no effect, but I would not say it will have a significant effect because the arms embargo will be enforced by others," Christopher said.
He stressed that the United States will continue to apply the embargo to Bosnian Serbs, and that the U.S. Air Force will remain active in the task force enforcing a "no fly" zone over Bosnia.
European nations and other countries, which unlike the United States have peacekeeping troops on the ground in Bosnia, fear that any modification of the U.N. embargo will expose their soldiers to Bosnian Serb retaliation.
The embargo was imposed in 1991 in an attempt to contain conflict as the Yugoslav federation disintegrated.
Muslim forces, outgunned by their Bosnian Serb foes throughout 31 months of fighting, improved their battlefield performance in recent weeks thanks to a flow of contraband light arms.
But those first gains of the war looked in serious danger this weekend in northwest Bosnia, where Bosnian Serb troops have clawed back territory that was lost around the Bihac pocket.
U.N. spokesman Koos Sol said the military situation was "highly tense and unstable with the (Bosnian Serbs) tightening the loop around Bihac."