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Clinton Urges Allies to Take 'Tougher Measures' in Bosnia

By Timothy Clifford

and Myron S. Waldman



President Clinton, denouncing Bosnian Serb rejection of a U.N. peace plan as "a delaying tactic," called upon the European allies and Russia Thursday to join America in taking "tougher measures" to stop the brutal ethnic warfare.

Saying the time has come "to unite and to act quickly and decisively," Clinton warned: "America has made its position clear and is ready to do its part. But Europe must be willing to act with us. We must go forward together."

Before any military action can be undertaken, administration officials conceded the need first to reach a common front with the Europeans and to build support in this country.

But Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., after a meeting with Clinton's top military leaders, warned Thursday, "It's a lot closer than you think."

Clinton also stepped up his efforts to make the case for U.S. military involvement in Bosnia to an increasingly concerned Congress and American public.

The White House sent Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Undersecretary of State Peter Tarnoff to Capitol Hill to brief House members and senators.

And, in a preamble to his speech at the Export-Import Bank conference Thursday, Clinton made his most sustained and coherent justification for risking American lives in the Balkans.

Besides repeating his familiar points of condemning the atrocities of ethnic cleansing perpetrated on civilians and the dangers of a widening war, Clinton spoke about the "principle that internationally recognized borders must not be violated or altered by aggression from without."

The president -- in seeking to stress that the Bosnian conflict is more than a civil war, since Serbia has been providing weapons and volunteers to its ethnic brethren in another republic -- appeared to be reviving one of former President Bush's justifications for launching the war against Iraq after it invaded Kuwait.

Administration spokesmen again promised Thursday that the president would address the nation before putting his policy into action. And House and Senate members said that Aspin pledged that no major military moves would be undertaken without a congressional vote. Leaders of both parties have said they expect Congress to support the president's policy.

White House communications director George Stephanopoulos also said that the United Nations "likely" would have to pass additional resolutions.

Seemingly mindful that foreign crises distract attention from domestic issues, the White House sought to continue its business as usual -- scheduling the announcement of its campaign finance reform proposal for Friday and announcing that the president would travel outside of Washington Monday and Tuesday to seek support for his economic plan. And he is expected to travel to New York Wednesday for a Democratic fund raiser.

But Thursday, foreign concerns dominated. Branding the self-styled Bosnian Serbian parliament's decision not to accept the Vance-Owen peace plan before holding a referendum "a delaying tactic," Clinton apparently is hoping it will appear to be a flouting of international condemnation of the aggression and will firm the resolve of the allies and Russia to take military action.

So far, Secretary of State Warren Christoper, who has been traveling among the European capitals, has found the allies and Russia reluctant to support military intervention. The Clinton administration is proposing punitive air strikes against Serbian artillery positions in Bosnia and a lifting of the embargo denying arms to Bosnian Muslims.

From the start, however, the administration has made clear that any U.S. military or peacekeeping activities would have to be taken collectively with the Europeans -- a decision designed to neutralize criticism that America should not be the world's policeman.

Among the emerging alternatives, according to a State Department source, is to have the United Nations designate several besieged Bosnian Muslim cities as "safe areas" and then use air power to retaliate against any attacks. The Security Council Thursday declared that Sarajevo and the Muslim enclaves of Tuzla, Zepa, Gorazde and Bihac should be regarded as safe areas but the enforcement measures remained unclear.

U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright warned Bosnian Serbs their behavior in coming days would determine whether force would have to be used against them