The long-dormant Western European Union agreed Friday to make its military forces available, if requested to do so by the United Nations, for humanitarian and peacekeeping duties in such trouble spots as Yugoslavia.
After a meeting near here, the nine-member group's foreign and defense ministers said in a statement:"All WEU member states will soon designate which of their military units and headquarters they would be willing to make available . . . for . . . various possible tasks. Member states intend to develop and exercise the appropriate capabilities to enable the deployment of WEU military units by land, sea or air to accomplish these tasks."
WEU Secretary-General Willem van Eekelen said that union forces might be used in situations where troops of the 16-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization "could not or would not participate."
Founded in 1955, the WEU - now made up of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg - was long inactive but has lately been revived as a possible independent European force.
Many security specialists see the WEU as a European pillar of NATO, a kind of military arm of the 12-member European Community. Some analysts believe that the group could function in situations where NATO forces might feel constrained because of NATO's basically defensive nature.
German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said that WEU troops would ordinarily serve under national command, even though they might be assigned to NATO in some cases. All WEU countries are members of NATO.
The ministers' statement declared that "the WEU is prepared, within the bounds of possibilities, to contribute toward effective implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions in connection with the conflict in the former Yugoslavia."
But member nations steered clear of suggesting that they would intervene with ground forces in the Yugoslav conflict, which U.N. observers have blamed on Serbia's determination to expand its borders at the expense of neighbors in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.