As President Clinton prepared to address the nation Monday on his plan to send U.S. troops to enforce the Bosnian peace agreement, administration officials insisted Sunday they will stick with the accord despite rising threats from Bosnian Serbs.
“We are not going to renegotiate this agreement,” Defense Secretary William J. Perry declared.
Over the past several days, Bosnian Serbs have protested against provisions in the treaty that grant control of Serb-held suburbs of Sarajevo, Bosnia’s capital, to the Muslim-led Bosnian government.
“What is wrong with the … agreement (is that it) has created a new Beirut in Europe” by ceding control of Sarajevo to the Bosnian government, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic told British television. “It is going to bleed for decades.”
Karadzic’s comments appeared aimed at frightening skittish American legislators into rejecting Clinton’s proposal to deploy more than 20,000 U.S. troops to help enforce the peace accord. Western diplomats in the former Yugoslav federation dismissed Karadzic’s threats as desperate, last-minute posturing by a politician - indicted on war-crimes charges - whose days in power are numbered.
Administration officials said Sunday that the treaty, which was initialed by the presidents of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in Dayton, Ohio, last week, will be signed next month in Paris without revisions.
“Dayton was an initialing,” said Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, the principal U.S. negotiator in the Dayton talks. “Paris will be the signing. There will be no change between Dayton and Paris.”
Likewise, national security adviser Anthony Lake said on the ABC program “This Week With David Brinkley” that the administration expects Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to “be able to enforce discipline on the Bosnian Serbs (and) that the cease-fire will hold.”
Although Karadzic initialed the agreement Thursday in a meeting with Milosevic in Serbia, he has since demanded that the treaty’s provisions on Sarajevo’s suburbs be renegotiated before the signing ceremony in Paris.
Karadzic, who has been indicted by a U.N. war crimes tribunal, is unlikely to attend the ceremony. “If (those indicted) set foot in Paris or, for that matter, any European or American country, they would be arrested,” Holbrooke said.
The appearances by Holbrooke and the other senior administration officials on network interview programs opened the beginning of Clinton’s campaign to win congressional approval of his plan to send the U.S. troops to join a NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia.
Administration officials expect Congress to vote before Dec. 15 on the plan, which has already drawn criticism from leading Republicans.
White House officials said the arguments raised in the television appearances by Perry, Holbrooke and Lake previewed the case Clinton will present at greater length in his televised address Monday night.
xxxx PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS NEW YORK - The four major television networks tonight will broadcast President Clinton’s address about sending U.S. troops to Bosnia. ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN will carry the speech live from the White House. It is scheduled for 8 p.m. EST (5 p.m. PST). Associated Press