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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Extends Troop Stay in Bosnia

WASHINGTON -- Reversing course in one of the world's most dangerous trouble spots, President Bill Clinton said Friday the United States will extend its military mission in Bosnia to prevent a "bitter harvest of hatred.''


Clinton said about 8,500 U.S. troops would initially be involved in a new 18-month mission but did not specify whether it would include different troops from the 14,000 now in Bosnia.


American involvement in Bosnia, which originally was to end in December, will now continue until July 1998, the president said. U.S. troops are now in the country as part of a NATO peacekeeping force.


"Where our interests are clear and our values are at stake, where we can make a difference, we must act and we must lead,'' Clinton said.


"The new mission will be more limited,'' he told reporters in the White House briefing room. "And it will not require as many troops.''


He praised the troops in Bosnia for bringing peace and free elections but said a new NATO operation is needed to prevent renewed bloodshed and restore civilian rule..


"Today, the Bosnia people are far better off than they were a year ago,'' Clinton said. "Bosnia's bitter harvest of hatred, however, has not yet disappeared.''


The administration's reversal was attacked in Congress even before he announced it.


"I don't think that the president has kept his word on the commitments he made to Congress last year,'' said Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. "He said that he would keep the mission to a year. He didn't. He said he would arm and train the Bosnian Moslems. He hasn't.''


Clinton denied any political motivation in the timing of his announcement. He said the new force has been in the works for weeks, but the public had not focused on it during the campaign because Republican rival Bob Dole "said in a very statesmanlike way'' that he agreed the United States should maintain its presence there.


?In Brussels, a row between France and the United States over the nationality of a high-level military commander is stopping NATO's top military officials from reforming the way the alliance works.


NATO sources said Friday that the row -- which goes to the heart of French desires for a strong European identity in NATO -- would stop military chiefs of staff from recommending a new, leaner command structure when they meet next week.


France wants the commander of southern European forces based in Naples to be a European. Washington insists the job should remain, as it always has, in American hands.