Washington, 18 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - President Bill Clinton says he has agreed to provide U.S. troops to a force the NATO alliance plans to keep in Bosnia to maintain peace there. He says the United States will also contribute troops to a humanitarian relief effort planned for the African nation of Zaire.
At a White House press conference Friday, Clinton confirmed what had been speculation in Washington last week -- that the United States would participate in what is being called a new NATO-led mission planned for Bosnia.
A NATO-led force of about 60,000, including about 20,000 Americans, has been in Bosnia for almost a year enforcing the terms of a peace agreement worked out among Bosnia's Muslim, Serb and Croat factions. The NATO force is scheduled to start pulling out next month, but alliance leaders agree that a smaller NATO mission will have to stay on to prevent civil war from flaring again.
Friday, Clinton said NATO had accomplished all of its goals for Bosnia, including separating the warring parties, removing heavy weapons, maintaining a ceasefire and "planting the seeds for democracy."
However, he says there is still a legacy of hatred in Bosnia and that there is a risk of more war if there is not an outside force to guarantee the peace. Clinton says the new NATO mission must have clear goals before he formally commits troops. U.S. officials say the American contribution to the new Bosnia force is expected to be about 8,500 soldiers.
In Africa, Clinton said the United States cannot turn its back on the estimated one million refugees from tribal conflict who are starving in refugee camps in Zaire. He said the United States will contribute a force, estimated at about 5,000, to a Canadian-led effort to open a humanitarian corridor for the refugees.