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From Hatred to Indifference: How Serbs See Clinton

January 13, 1996

ALONG ROUTE ARIZONA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ ``If only I could see him and ask him why he hates us so much!″ muttered Srdjan Bundalo, a Bosnian Serb soldier, staring at the clear sky above the narrow corridor that spans Serb holdings in northern Bosnia.

A few yards away, some U.S. soldiers looked down from their supply truck along Route Arizona, the U.S.-patrolled road that is perhaps the prickliest patch of territory the GIs will patrol in Bosnia.

Bundalo was scouring the sky Saturday for a glimpse of the plane carrying President Clinton to Tuzla, some 25 miles to the south.

``We don’t hate the Americans: on the contrary! So why are they so strongly against us and so keen on helping our enemies?″ asked Bundalo.

Bundalo reiterated a common feeling among the majority of Bosnian Serbs, who believe the Americans took the Muslim and Croat side in ending the long war in the former Yugoslavia.

But some Bosnian Serbs felt even more offended.

``Why doesn’t his plane crash? That would be the happiest day of my life. I could then die immediately,″ said Zoran Dakic, leaning on his crutches. An anti-personnel mine left him without his right leg nearly two years ago.

Clinton’s visit to Bosnia _ limited to the tightly sealed U.S. base just south of Tuzla _ did not disturb the routine of American soldiers deployed along Route Arizona, a north-south road linking Tuzla with the town of Orasje near the Sava River at Bosnia’s northeastern tip.

``I don’t think we’ll be told about his overflight. He isn’t coming here, and we don’t have to know his schedule,″ said 1st Lt. Matt Gephard from Pennsylvania, leader of a 1st Platoon Alpha Company cavalry unit.

He said his platoon came to Bosnia after Christmas and has the duty of keeping the Arizona Road open as the main supply route for peacekeeping troops.

Despite the hostile reactions of the Serb soldiers, Gephard said his contacts with Serbs have been cordial.

``Serbs here behave very friendly; some want to learn English,″ said Gephard, who already served in former Yugoslavia under a U.N. mandate. He was among hundreds of Americans deployed in southern Macedonia, the only Yugoslav republic that broke away from Yugoslavia without fight.

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