WASHINGTON — Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic said Thursday he is satisfied with President Clinton's measured offer of military aid to enforce a peace agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, adding that he will return next week to negotiations with Serbs and Croats.
But the Bosnian leader also made it clear that he is bitterly disappointed in all the Western powers, which promised to help his country but failed to prevent its partition.
Choosing his words delicately, Izetbegovic said he is "relatively satisfied" with the support Clinton offered him at a White House meeting Wednesday.
After visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Izetbegovic said pointedly that in his nation's tragedy he found echoes of the "passivity" of the Allies in the face of Nazi Germany's genocide against the Jews of Europe--"including the passivity of the United States."
At their meeting on Wednesday, Izetbegovic asked Clinton to set a deadline for Serbian forces to withdraw artillery that threatens the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.
He said Clinton replied that the United States could not set such a deadline and that only the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which the United States has led since 1949, could tackle that issue.
Izetbegovic also asked Clinton for stronger assurances that the United States would send troops to Bosnia to enforce a peace agreement, if one can be reached.
"I got these assurances," he said.
Clinton said Wednesday that he is willing to join in a multinational effort to enforce an agreement but stressed that he would need approval from Congress.
Izetbegovic met with congressional leaders to discuss the issue Thursday.
"My feeling is that most of them are ready to uphold the sending of ground troops," he said.
The Bosnian leader's willingness to resume the U.N.-sponsored negotiations in Geneva--a decision not unexpected--would end his weeklong walkout.
Izetbegovic broke off talks on Sept. 1, saying that the U.N.-proposed partition plan was unfair because it left his Muslim-led government with only about 30% of Bosnia's territory. The plan would have granted 52% to the Serbs and 18% to the Croats.
Izetbegovic insisted that he cannot back down from his demand that at least 34% of Bosnia be retained for the Muslims, the country's largest religious group.
Noting that he already had been forced to abandon his aim of a single, multiethnic Bosnia, Izetbegovic said that the U.N. plan is "below the bottom line that we can go. It is worse than war."
In another development, Defense Secretary Les Aspin canceled plans to visit Sarajevo next week after a weekend stop in Brussels.
Defense Department spokeswoman Kathleen deLaski said that Aspin had wanted to meet with the handful of U.S. troops under the U.N. command in Sarajevo.
But after peace negotiations broke down, she said, officials feared that Aspin might find himself in the middle of renewed fighting.
Other Defense Department officials, speaking anonymously, said that the trip--announced by the Pentagon last week--appeared ill-advised because it would turn a spotlight on the uncertainty over whether the United States and NATO should attack the Serbian forces besieging Sarajevo.
Times staff writer Richard Serrano contributed to this report.