CONVINCED that the approaching end of winter will mean intensified warfare in Bosnia-Herzegovina, French officials are pushing the United States and Russia to join in a big-powers diplomatic initiative to end the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
At talks in Paris yesterday, French leaders told US Secretary of State Warren Christopher that all signs point to a coming intensification of the Bosnian war that could cause its transformation into the devastating regional conflict that the West has long feared.
Mr. Christopher met with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe yesterday morning, and was to hold talks with Prime Minister Edouard Balladur and President Francois Mitterrand in the afternoon.
The French believe that the recent unsuccessful Geneva peace talks, intelligence reports from the ground, and growing talk among Bosnian Muslims of winning back more of their lost territory, all point to heavier fighting this spring. And they believe that only a united diplomatic initiative by the US, Russia, and the European Union can now stop that deterioration.
Foreign Ministry officials acknowledged, however, that Christopher appeared unconvinced of either the need or efficacy of any different approach to diplomatic efforts.
The French outlook on the situation ``is more pessimistic than the Americans' view,'' said Foreign Ministry spokesman Richard Duque. Another official said the Americans appeared ``unconvinced'' by the French scenario, which turned bleaker - and began including calls for a tougher engagement by Western powers - in the run-up to the NATO summit earlier this month.
French officials, who last spring rebuffed US calls for tougher action in Bosnia, now fear the consequences of a US retreat from attempts to end the conflict. Those fears have grown as France concluded that some international military action might be necessary - although the only realistic agent of force would be the US-led NATO.
French frustration over this effective hold the US has over any international action showed through a Defense Ministry official's statement yesterday. The official told Reuters that NATO might not survive if the US failed to join its European allies in military action to send a warning to Bosnian Serbs in former Yugoslavia.