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President Scolds Congress for Interfering with Somalia Policy

By Ruth Marcus and Helen Dewar
The Washington Post


President Clinton warned Congress Monday against interfering with his military decisions in Haiti or Bosnia and said he would not rule out the use of force in Haiti.

"I thought I ought to say clearly today that I would strenuously oppose such attempts to encroach on the president's foreign policy powers," Clinton said in an interview with radio reporters. "The president must make the ultimate decision" about committing U.S. troops, he said.

With United Nations sanctions against Haiti set to take effect at midnight, Clinton said it would be "an error" for him to rule out military options there. He cited the presence of 1,000 U.S. citizens, that Haiti "is very much in our back yard" and the threat of a new flood of refugees.

At the same time, Clinton noted that the Haitian government under Prime Minister Robert Malval "has not asked for that (U.S. military intervention) and does not want that."

Clinton's comments on presidential authority were prompted by a new round of congressional proposals to place restrictions on use of U.S. troops.

Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole, R-Kan., plans to offer an amendment that would require congressional authorization before troops could be sent to Haiti. The proposal would include exceptions to the requirement for advance approval, including evacuating American citizens, assuring the safety of U.S. troops and maintaining national security if there is no time for a congressional vote.

Another amendment, proposed by Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., would require congressional authorization after March 1, 1994, for participation of U.S. forces under foreign command in U.N. peace-keeping operations. Dole also has a proposal to require congressional authorization before U.S. troops can be sent to Bosnia.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher Monday warned Serbian leaders that a two-month-old NATO threat to use air strikes remains in force.

In a letter to Dole and Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, D-Maine, Clinton said he had "grave concern" about such restrictions.

"I am fundamentally opposed to amendments which improperly limit my ability to perform my constitutional duties as commander in chief, which may have unconstitutional provisions and which, if adopted, could weaken the confidence of our allies in the United States," Clinton said.

He said imposing limits on his power as commander in chief "would provide encouragement to aggressors and repressive rulers around the world who seek to operate without fear of reprisal."

Last week, Clinton fought off a congressional proposal to require U.S. forces to be out of Somalia before the date he had set, March 31. But the spate of amendments reflects the degree of congressional uneasiness and dissatisfaction with the administration's handling of foreign policy.

Dole told a news conference that Clinton expressed concern to him in a telephone conversation earlier in the day about the proposed restrictions and was sending administration representatives to Capitol Hill to "see if there is some common ground."

Clinton's Senate allies also were considering possible alternatives to the Dole and Nickles proposals, which were expected to be voted on as early as Tuesday.

While some fine-tuning of the proposals was possible, Dole said, there is "pretty broad bipartisan support" for his proposal on Haiti and Nickles's to restrict assignment of U.S. forces under foreign command. "I think I have the votes," he said.

Dole, who helped rescue Clinton from defeat on his Somalia policy last week, denied that he was trying to "micro-manage" foreign policy, return the country to isolationism or embarrass the president in demanding a congressional vote before U.S. forces are committed to Haiti.

Dole contended that Congress set precedents during Republican administrations in tying strings to administration policy in Central America and elsewhere and said he was sympathetic to the resistance of all presidents to congressional encroachments: "If I were the executive, I would oppose it."