Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Optimistic on Bosnia but Keeps Finger on Trigger

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Optimistic on Bosnia but Keeps Finger on Trigger

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton notified Congress on Friday that he was prepared to order bombing by U.S. planes in Bosnia, even as administration officials expressed some optimism that air strikes could be averted.

All heavy guns found within a 12-mile zone around Sarajevo that have not been surrendered to the United Nations by midnight Sunday, London time, "will be subject to NATO air strikes," Clinton told lawmakers.

Clinton planned to speak this morning to give a status report on whether Bosnian Serbs were fully complying with the deadline.

"Because there is a clear possibility that American aircraft will be taking part in a NATO operation over Bosnia . . . it is important that the president . . . be telling the American people why this is important," a White House official said.

Meanwhile, the administration welcomed Russia's role in pushing Bosnian Serbs to move their artillery and said 400 Russian soldiers who might join peacekeeping efforts would be put under the control of the United Nations.

The administration voiced hope and skepticism over reports that Bosnian Serbs were withdrawing their heavy equipment from hills around the Bosnian capital.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher said the United States was in a "wait-and-see attitude."

"I'm cautious about this," Christopher told CNN. "The Serbs have disappointed us many times before."

He said the best information was that the Bosnian Serbs had removed about 50 heavy weapons and were moving additional ones. That represents only a small portion of the Serbian artillery in place, he said.

And although the administration generally supported Russian efforts to persuade the Bosnian Serbs to disarm, Christopher said the United States was not ready to support at this time a Russian proposal for a high-level conference next week on Bosnia.

Earlier, Dee Dee Myers, the White House press secretary, said the true test of Bosnian Serb vows to comply with the NATO deadline "will be their actions on the ground. The test has not changed." Neither will the NATO deadline, she and other administration officials emphasized.

Top national security officials met Friday at the White House on the situation and, later, Clinton sent congressional leaders formal notification that he might use U. …

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