President Clinton Visits Sarajevo and Tells Bosnians ’The Future Is Up to You’By SANDRA
President Clinton Visits Sarajevo and Tells Bosnians ’The Future Is Up to You’By SANDRA SOBIERAJ
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Under tight security in this war-scarred city, President Clinton said today the United States is proud of its role in resurrecting the crippled Balkans but said ``the future is up to you _ not the Americans, not the Europeans, not to anyone else.″
Clinton exulted in the new face of Sarajevo, bustling with people and cafes and thriving businesses, a few short years after the guns were silenced. He met privately with Bosnia’s federation of leaders and described his message to them:
``You owe it to your country to bring out the best in people, acting in concert, not conflict, overcoming obstacles, not creating them, rising above petty disputes, not fueling them.″
Clinton said he encountered a peacekeeping unit from Richmond, Va., and one of the troops told him, ``These are good people and this is a good thing we’re doing.″
Later, the president visited the American base in Tuzla, 50 miles north of Sarajevo, to thank many of the 8,500 U.S. troops who learned last week that the U.S. military stay here will be indefinite. ``We in the United States are proud of our role in Bosnia’s new beginning,″ he said.
Ensign Michael Barnes, 21, of Orlando, Fla., joined troops waiting in the mud and damp to greet Clinton outside the base gym where he was speaking. ``I think it’s a good idea that we’re staying,″ Barnes said.
In Sarajevo, Clinton’s speech was directed at Bosnia’s people and its quarrelsome leaders.
To the people, he said: ``You must make your desire for peace and the common future clear to the leaders of each group.″
To the three members of Bosnia’s presidency, he said: You are responsible for rebuilding the government and for turning the 1995 Dayton peace accords into reality.
``In the end, the future is up to you, not to the Americans, not to the Europeans, not to anyone else,″ he said. Of their responsibility, Clinton said, ``Those who shirk it will isolate themselves. The world, which continues to invest in your peace rightfully expects that you will do your part. More importantly, the people of this country expect results and they deserve them.″
Clinton reminded the three ethnic groups _ Croats, Serbs and Muslims _ that the United States itself has more than 180 different ethnic groups living in peace _ and challenged them to follow America’s example.
Clinton sought to put the Bosnian conflict into a global context, comparing it to tensions in the Mideast, Central America and elsewhere. ``None of us has the moral standing to look down on another, and we should stop it,″ he said to thunderous applause.
The president was clearly moved by what he’d seen in the city. He described the war years during which people ran a gauntlet of snipers and shells in search of water and food. ``Now they walk in security to work and school.″ Clinton and his family stopped by a coffee shop near the Markale marketplace, the site of devastating shelling in 1994 and 1995, and said the local people there told him, ``Stay for a while longer.″
En route to Bosnia, Clinton told reporters that his message to officials in private meetings would be blunt: ``The future of the country is still in their hands. ... In the end, they’ve got to behave.″
Clinton’s national security adviser, Sandy Berger, said Clinton ``went leader by leader, name by name, and was very tough, telling them they have to do their part.″
Clinton acknowledged last week that it was a mistake to promise a troop withdrawal by June 1998 and announced that American peacekeeping forces would stay in Bosnia with no set deadline.
Clinton’s grueling 36-hour tour, with his wife and daughter in tow, visited some of the most wretched ghosts of Bosnia’s bloody four-year civil war.
Across the street from the airport, hundreds of schoolchildren lined up before bombed-out buildings and waved American flags as Clinton’s motorcade cut through ``sniper alley″ and passed buildings pockmarked by mortar fire that ended with the deployment of NATO-led peacekeepers.
At the National Museum, where Clinton met with leaders, up to 1,000 school children stood with their teachers, cheering and waving little American flags. When asked if they knew who was visiting, they shouted in unison, ``Clinton! The president of America!″
Local police, whose leave was canceled this weekend, expanded patrols and stood guard. Some 8,000 U.S. troops_ down from their peak of 27,000 in 1996_ have helped the NATO mission and forged a tenuous peace among warring ethnic factions.
Clinton has suggested that extended deployment would be smaller but Army General Wesley Clark, NATO’s supreme commander, told members of Congress traveling with Clinton that he wanted the troop level to remain at 8,500.
With some in Congress balking at an open-ended military commitment, Clinton pressed Bosnians today to hasten steps toward a self-sustaining peace _ through an independent news media, civilian police force, and other democratic institutions.
While Clinton credits American forces with suppressing atrocities and reconstructing roads, bridges and utilities, more problems remain. Thousands of refugees have yet to return to their homes; war criminals remain at large.
In meeting with Bosnia’s federation government today, Clinton pressed the issue without committing American troops to the task, administration officials said.
Clinton met separately with Biljana Plavsic, president of the Serb Republic. The United States is trying to bolster her in hopes that she can overpower rival Bosnian Serbs loyal to indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, who remains at large and is considered an obstacle to real peace.
Clinton also met with Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim chairman of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency.
Looking ahead to the campaign to build support back home, Clinton brought along 11 members of Congress, Bob Dole, the longtime Senate GOP leader and 1996 presidential candidate, and his wife Elizabeth.
The president traveled to Bosnia once before, in January 1996, when U.S. troops were just settling in. Hillary Rodham Clinton and daughter Chelsea were also making a return visit after meeting with troops in March 1996.