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Bosnia: Decision Pending On Extending Stay Of U.S. Troops

Washington, 11 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - President Bill Clinton says he has made no decision yet on extending the presence of U.S. troops in Bosnia into 1997.

But he told a Washington press conference last week that "it is conceivable" the United States would participate in a new NATO mission in Bosnia after the current international peacekeeping operation ends.

Clinton said the new force would be different -- smaller, and with a more limited mission than the current NATO force in Bosnia. He said he's waiting to see a NATO report on the proposed force and will decide about America's participation after assessing risks and benefits.

The United States currently has 18,000 troops with NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia. Clinton said they have already begun to return to the United States in a phased withdrawal expected to be completed by next March.

Clinton praised the NATO peacekeeping operation, saying it helped the peace process in Bosnia take hold. But a program to rebuild Bosnia's economy made disappointing progress, he said. Clinton also said he was pleased with the cooperation between NATO allies, Russia and non-NATO countries in the current peacekeeping effort.