Solana hints at alliance role in Bosnia beyond June 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) _ NATO’s top diplomat hinted Thursday at a possible continuing alliance presence in Bosnia after the current peacekeeping mission ends next summer.
In remarks to reporters, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said the focus for now should be on completing the work of the 36,000-strong Stabilization Force, known as SFOR, whose NATO mandate is due to expire next June.
``SFOR as such will not be continued _ as such″ beyond June, Solana said, putting emphasis on the term ``as such″ to suggest that an intervention force under some other name and form could replace SFOR in Bosnia and continue the work of maintaining peace.
``The international community should not abandon Bosnia,″ Solana said.
President Clinton has said the SFOR mission will end as scheduled at the end of June 1998, but he has not ruled out the possibility of a continued U.S. role in some aspect of supporting Bosnia’s fragile peace. About 9,800 American troops are participating in the SFOR mission.
Last December, SFOR itself replaced the original peacekeeping force that entered Bosnia to implement the 1995 Dayton peace accords. Although the military aspects of securing peace in Bosnia have largely succeeded, the tasks of re-establishing a viable political system and rebuilding the economy have lagged.
Solana, who was holding meetings Thursday with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen, said it was too early to begin debating NATO’s role in Bosnia beyond June.
``We have to see how things evolve, and we have to decide what we will do after″ June, Solana said. ``But at this moment, we should not distract ourselves from the main aim that we have, which is to use properly the time that is left until July 1998 with SFOR on the ground.″
Separately Thursday, a panel of Bosnia experts put together a menu of options for peacekeeping in Bosnia that range from total withdrawal to a continued military presence.
Members of the Program on Peacekeeping Policy, an affiliate of the Council For a Livable World Education Fund, did not agree on a number of key questions, but leaned in the direction of some continued force presence in Bosnia.
``The only really solid agreement was that there had to be a force following SFOR,″ said George Mason University professor Dave Davis.
Panelist Walter Stadtler, former director of a Pentagon task force on Somalia, said the review team also agreed that NATO should not hand over control of peace operations to the United Nations. U.N. failure to bring peace to Bosnia in the early 1990s led to the NATO peace mission.
The team also agreed that a force smaller than the current SFOR would be adequate.
``We cannot pull out in June of 1998 without risking war,″ Stadtler said.