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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Senate plans to vote next week on supporting the U.S. deployment to Bosnia and the arming and training of government forces there, but also will consider a House measure cutting off funding for the mission.
It also will take up a resolution opposing President Clinton’s decision to send troops but expressing support for the soldiers, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said late Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole is planning the debate for Tuesday and the votes for Wednesday, McCain said. Dole reached agreement with Republican colleagues Thursday on debating the deployment of 20,000 U.S. troops to Bosnia, but the agreement is subject to approval by Senate Democrats.
The measure grudgingly supporting the deployment was crafted by Dole and McCain. But Democrats might offer their own alternative giving more unambiguous support for the Bosnia mission.
The Dole-McCain measure would contain specific language requiring the United States to support arming and training of Muslim-led Bosnian government forces.
According to a draft obtained by The Associated Press, the resolution would require that the United States ``lead an immediate effort, separate and apart from the NATO implementation force, to provide equipment, arms, training and related logistics assistance of the highest possible quality″ to the Bosnian government. The aid could include surplus U.S. arms.
The measure also would assert that the United States should have a strategy for accomplishing a limited military mission and then withdrawing after a fixed period of time. And it would preclude U.S. forces from engaging in ``non-military activities″ that should be left to civil authorities.
Clinton wants to strengthen the Bosnian government military to reduce the chance of war breaking out. But administration officials warned that an overly explicit policy might lead rebel Bosnian Serbs to view the U.S. troops as partisans.
Lawmakers predicted Clinton would win a vote of support in the Senate. The situation was less certain in the House, where nearly half the members sent a one-sentence letter to Clinton urging him not to send in ground troops.
Lawmakers are anxious to vote on the deployment before Thursday, when the final signing of the Dayton, Ohio, peace accord in Paris will set in motion the transfer of U.S. soldiers to Bosnia. The Clinton administration wants a congressional vote of support, but insists the mission will go ahead regardless.
In a sign of concern about the safety of U.S. forces, the Clinton administration is planning a direct appeal to Bosnian authorities to ensure that all foreign Islamic fundamentalist fighters in Bosnia leave the country soon.
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke was opening a three-nation visit to the Balkans starting today and planned to deliver that message during a stop in Sarajevo. His itinerary included visits to Serbia and Croatia.
The administration is wary about the presence of mujahedeen fighters near the area where U.S. units are due to set up headquarters.
``They should be removed,″ State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said Thursday. ``Most of these people have a different agenda, a very different agenda than that of peace, and we don’t believe that their presence there is at all helpful, and we won’t tolerate it.″
Some of the Muslim holy warriors are attached to special units of the Bosnian army considered friendly to the United States. But U.S. officials consider other mujahedeen units to be worrisome.
The mujahedeen have gone to Bosnia from a variety of Islamic countries, including Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan. Official estimates of their numbers are imprecise, ranging from 300 to 3,000.
Burns said it was ``absolutely critical″ that the mujahedeen fighters leave Bosnia by mid-January. That deadline, applying to all non-NATO foreign forces in Bosnia, was established in the peace agreement.
The Bosnian government has given assurances the deadline will be met. But some observers in Bosnia question whether Sarajevo authorities have the ability to enforce the provision.
Holbrooke also will seek forceful assurances from Bosnian officials that they will protect the civil liberties of Serbs living in and around Sarajevo, which will be under Muslim control under terms of the Dayton peace agreement.
On Thursday, President Clinton formally notified Congress of the dispatch of 1,500 troops to Bosnia for preparatory work. He briefed about 20 members of Congress on the Bosnia mission Thursday evening in a meeting that lasted nearly two hours. None of the legislators commented afterward.
A dozen Republican and eight Democratic House members were to leave today for a weekend trip to Bosnia to observe preparations for the deployment.