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Administration's Balkan Policy

March 06, 1993

The Times' editorial of Feb. 12 contains a number of incorrect assertions regarding the new Administration's approach to the former Yugoslavia. It ignores the fact that the policy is a new step which adds the full weight of the United States to the efforts by the United Nations and the European Community to reach a fair and workable settlement in Bosnia. The importance of this effort cannot be minimized; I offer the following facts to set the record straight.

You assert that President Clinton ratified former President Bush's policy and suggested to the Serbs that they need not fear a U.S. response to their transgressions. In fact, the Administration's new approach contains two significant departures from previous policy. The U.S., through Ambassador Bartholomew, will now be active in helping peace talks co-chairmen Cyrus Vance and David Owen bring the parties to an agreement that is fair and workable. Also, the U.S. is prepared to join with the U.N. and NATO in implementing and enforcing a viable agreement.

Your editorial claims that the Clinton Administration abandoned a number of options favored during the campaign. While the Administration has not ruled out an effort to lift the U.N. arms embargo, we must recognize that the embargo was established by a U.N. Security Council resolution and cannot be lifted unilaterally without violating that resolution. A new resolution, with the full support of the council, is required to lift the embargo. The Administration is focusing on efforts to obtain a settlement, including enforcement of the no-fly zone over Bosnia, instead of measures which increase the fighting.

The editor writes that Ambassador Bartholomew is "superfluous" because the Administration has endorsed Vance/Owen. Indeed, Bartholomew will be actively engaged in the negotiations; his role has been welcomed. The Administration has not endorsed the peace plan, pointing out that while it supported the Geneva process, it wanted an agreement which the parties would consider fair and workable.

The Times asserts that the Administration has spoken vaguely of raising the cost of the war to the Serbs. The fact is we have launched a major initiative to ensure more rigorous enforcement of the U.N. sanctions and an interagency task force is exploring possible new measures to this end.

The editorial claims that disgruntled Muslims will see the Administration's approach as a renewal of passivity. In truth, reactions from the Islamic world to the new, heightened engagement of the Administration have been positive.

According to the editorial, rabid nationalists will interpret the Administration's approach as acquiescing in a "final solution." The secretary has made clear that the imperative to bring about a settlement is in no small measure a response to concerns that Bosnia could be a precedent for addressing the situation of ethnic and religious minorities elsewhere.

The Times asserts that the Vance/Owen plan is unenforceable and the Administration should not commit 5,000-12,000 U.S. troops. In fact, the Administration has not committed any troops. One concern about the plan is that without some changes and acceptance by the parties, it is not enforceable. The new initiative addresses, inter alia, this specific concern.

The Administration's approach is designed to facilitate efforts to seek a settlement by the U.N. and the European Community, which remain deeply involved in the process. Other governments have recognized that the degree of U.S. engagement which will follow from this new initiative can make it possible to bring an end to this tragedy.


Acting Assistant Secretary for Public

Affairs and Department Spokesman

State Department, Washington

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