700 U.S. troops sent on perilous trip into Bosnia

The Associated Press

MADRID, Spain President Clinton authorized a vanguard of 700 American troops to open a risky mission in former Yugoslavia and rejected Bosnian Serb demands yesterday for rewriting the treaty U.S. forces will help enforce.

''When you make a peace agreement, not everybody is happy with it,'' Clinton said, referring to Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic's warning that Serbs in Sarajevo will never live under Muslim and Croat rule, as the agreement prescribes.

Despite the complaints of Mladic and others, Clinton said, ''I don't think the treaty is in trouble and, no, I don't think it should be renegotiated.'' It is to be signed Dec. 14 in Paris.

Wrapping up a five-day European trip, Clinton announced he had given the go-ahead for sending into Bosnia 700 U.S. troops trained in logistics and communications.

Within a few days, the advance troops will establish a U.S. headquarters in the northeast town of Tuzla in preparation for nearly 20,000 Americans set to follow in a matter of weeks. The Americans, part of a 60,000-troop international peacekeeping effort, will spend the winter and the months after that trying to separate warring parties and disarming land mines hidden by snow-covered fields.

As he headed home from Europe, weary from long days and late nights, Clinton faced deep skepticism from Americans citizens and the Congress about the military mission.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., said on CBS' ''Face the Nation'' yesterday that around Wednesday this week the Senate will take up a resolution supporting American forces in Bosnia but also containing language on arming Bosnian Muslims and providing a clear-cut exit strategy.

''If Bill Clinton is going to have the entry strategy, the rest of us should have the exit strategy,'' said Dole, who has agreed to put aside his opposition to U.S. participation in the peacekeeping mission so that Americans sent to Bosnia know they have the full support of Congress.

''It will be in the great spirit of foreign policy that I think Republicans and Democrats will now be united to support the American troops,'' Rep. John Kasich, R-Ohio, another opponent of deployment, said on NBC's ''Meet the Press.''

''I think the American people should know that we have a unique responsibility at this moment in history,'' Clinton said. America's status as a wealthy nation and the world's last superpower ''imposes on us great responsibilities,'' he said.

Other nations have taken military risks when asked by the United States, such as in the Persian Gulf and Haiti, and Americans should be willing to do likewise for Europe, the president added.

''When we fought in Desert Storm and all those people came to help us,'' Clinton said, ''you didn't hear them making speeches (saying), 'We really don't have a dog in this fight.'''

Spain's prime minister, Felipe Gonzalez, at a news conference with the president, said the U.S. deployment sends a signal ''of utmost importance for international solidarity.''

Clinton's advisers declared the trip a huge political success. ''Unfortunately, I can't get the election held tomorrow,'' said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.

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