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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U. S. Policy On Serajevo Is Dismaying

A horror of human-rights violations for the people living there, Bosnia is now also becoming a diplomatic disaster of the first order for the United States, Western Europe and Russia.

Diplomatic efforts have been plagued by bad timing since the civil strife started in 1991. First, the Bush administration was inclined to regard the matter as a European problem for Europeans to solve. After watching the failure of a variety of European efforts, the new Clinton administration decided to try its hand and assert U. S. leadership. and since last month's referendum, Russia has become a player.

If the past week is any example, the Bosnian Serbs have little to fear in terms of a unified U. S. -Russian-European diplomatic effort against them.

After months of consultations, the United States opted for a policy of trying to force the Bosnian Serbs to accept a U. N. -supported peace plan, which requires them to give up captured territory, by carrying out bombing raids on Serbian positions and helping to arm the outgunned Bosnian Moslems.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher conducted a week of talks in Europe in an unsuccessful effort to win over the allies to the U. S. policy. The Clinton administration is hardly in a position to push hard since polls demonstrate that the American public does not want a major U. S. involvement in Bosnia.

Enter Russia and Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, who last week called for a meeting of foreign ministers of the 15-nation U. N. Security Council after canvassing Council members and apparently gaining tentative U. S. approval.

On Monday, Washington pulled the rug out from under the Russian plan, saying that the United States would not attend such a meeting, citing lack of preparation time and domestic budget considerations.

The surprise U. S. rebuff undermined Moscow's delicate effort to play a peacemaking role despite strong pro-Serbian sentiments in Russia.

Meanwhile, having dipped its toes into the Bosnian quagmire, the Clinton administration seems to be looking for a graceful, but fast, way to back away.

Registering his frustration, Christopher said Monday that the Bosnia problem "seems to get more difficult every time you look at it" and welcomed new ideas from the allies. The message is that the administration is looking for political damage protection and seeking to de-escalate its role.

With the potential for similar ethnic strife erupting elsewhere in the former East Bloc, President Clinton's first major foray into foreign policy is not reassuring.