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Limited military intervention in the civil war in Bosnia is a bad idea, Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview published Monday.

"As soon as they tell me it is limited, it means they do not care whether you achieve a result or not," Powell told The New York Times. "As soon as they tell me `surgical,' I head for the bunker."Powell spoke out against suggestions by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and others that the West undertake limited air strikes to deter Serbian forces from shelling Sarajevo and continuing their attacks on Muslims in Bosnia.

The general said force should be used only after a political objective is clear. He accused civilian leaders of being too quick to place troops in jeopardy for ill-defined missions, and he cited Lebanon, where 241 Marines were killed by a terrorist bomb during a peacekeeping mission in 1983.

"They did not know really what they were doing there," Powell said. "It was very confusing. Two hundred forty-one of them died as a reuslt."