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Bosnia: Muslim President Has Mixed Reaction To Peacekeeping Force

Sarajevo, 18 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - The head of Bosnia-Herzegovina's collective presidency, Muslim Alija Izetbegovic, has gave a mixed reaction Saturday to news that the United States has agreed to provide troops to a new NATO-led force for Bosnia.

Izetbegovic, speaking Friday on Bosnian state-run television, said "the presence of foreigners is not good for the country" and called the presence of an international force a "necessary evil." But Izetbegovic added that since an international force is necessary "we prefer the Americans."

U.S. President Bill Clinton announced Friday that the United States would participate in a new NATO-led mission planned for Bosnia. However, Clinton said the new NATO force must have clear goals before he formally commits U.S. troops.

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. That 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 resuming.

U.S. officials say the American contribution to the new Bosnia force is expected to be about 8,500 soldiers.