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Clinton Plans Bosnia Visit

December 15, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton will make a quick visit to Bosnia next week to cheer American troops away from home at Christmas, administration officials said late Sunday.

The president will spend just a day in Tuzla and Sarajevo to meet with U.S. troops and leaders of the Bosnian federation government, the officials said. Clinton will leave before nightfall and not stay overnight, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Details of the trip were still being worked out, and officials were reluctant to discuss the president’s plans. ``We have nothing to announce yet but we may very shortly,″ deputy White House press secretary Barry Toiv said.

However, officials confirmed a Washington Post report that Clinton would make a pre-Christmas trip, leaving perhaps as early as the night of Dec. 21. The trip has been in the planning stage for some time.

Nearly two years ago, on Jan. 13, 1996, the president flew to Bosnia to make a front-line visit to U.S. forces, praising mud-caked troops as ``warriors for the peace.″ Then, it was in the early stages of the U.S. mission to maintain the peace in Bosnia after nearly four years of war. He brought with him bags of mail, 200 cases of Coca-Cola and 5,000 Hershey bars.

Under the current schedule, U.S. troops are to be withdrawn from Bosnia in June at the formal end of the multinational NATO peacekeeping mission. However, that assignment is expected to be extended in some fashion.

Clinton has hinted broadly that U.S. troops will be needed as Bosnia struggles to build a professional local police force, move ahead with economic reconstruction and restore the civilian structures of the crippled nation.

There are some 8,500 American troops among the 32,000 members of the multinational force helping to keep the peace in the former Yugoslavia, although most actually are stationed in neighboring countries.

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