`A Chance to Turn from War' Leaders Agree on Blueprint for Bosnia

Article excerpt

After years of bitter fighting and 21 roller-coaster days of treaty talks, the presidents of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia chose peace over war on Tuesday.

President Bill Clinton announced the breakthrough from the White House Rose Garden and reaffirmed his commitment to send U.S. aid and 20,000 U.S. troops to Bosnia to keep the peace.

"The people of Bosnia finally have a chance to turn from the horror of war to the promise of peace," Clinton declared.

And he noted the need for U.S. forces. "Without us, the hard-won peace would be lost, the war would resume, the slaughter of innocents would begin again," Clinton said. "The parties have chosen peace. We must choose peace as well."

The peace treaty calls for an independent Bosnia to become a country of two states. One state would be controlled by the Serb factions that waged a war of secession. The other would be governed by a coalition of Muslims and Croats.

Sarajevo, the capital, will remain largely unified, although the Bosnian Serbs were granted jurisdiction over neighboring suburbs. The capital city will be governed by the Muslim-Croat coalition.

NATO nations - mostly the United States, Britain, France and Russia - will in total send 60,000 peacekeeping troops.

The Balkan presidents, while expressing reservations, said the accord was the best that could be achieved.

"In a civil war . . . there are no winners, and there could be no winners," said Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. "All are losers. Only peace is a victory."

Bosnia's President Alija Izetbegovic said, "In the world as it is, a better peace will not have been achieved."

For his part, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said he thought the accord "would result in lasting peace and create conditions for the establishment of a new world order in this part of the world." Paris Meeting

The settlement sets in motion a chain of events that could lead to the dispatch of the NATO soldiers within weeks. If all goes well, the parties would meet in Paris to sign a peace treaty by mid-December. The bulk of U.S. forces would begin deployment several days later.

Congressional leaders, however, are concerned about sending American soldiers on the risky mission and skeptical about the prospects for lasting peace.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., said he welcomed Clinton's promise to give Congress time to review the peace agreement before ordering American troops into the region.

But Dole insisted that the president "has not yet made the case to Congress, or to the American people, for a massive deployment of American troops . . . to implement this agreement. He will have many questions to answer in the coming weeks."

House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that he viewed the deployment of U.S. forces "skeptically but with an open mind." He said the House would hold hearings next week.

The House has voted to prevent money from being spent to send U.S. troops to Bosnia unless Clinton first gets congressional approval, but the administration insists the Constitution does not require it. …