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Allies Reluctant to Give Aid to Bosnian Army That Would Train, Arm Military

By Art Pine
Los Angeles Times

The Clinton administration's bid to muster international help to arm and train the Bosnian government army received a serious setback Thursday as several key European countries served notice that they will not provide significant help.

With a meeting of potential donors scheduled for Ankara, Turkey, Friday,

France, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands all have declined to contribute substantially. Other potential donors, such as Saudi Arabia, have signaled that they, too, may hold back.

U.S. officials worry that a poor showing at the Ankara conference could undermine their efforts to stabilize Bosnia so that U.S. peacekeeping troops can leave by the end of this year, as President Clinton has promised.

In particular, Washington had hoped to amass a sizable list of contributors in Ankara to prod the Muslim-led government of Bosnia into ejecting some 800 remaining Islamic militiamen from the country and severing their military ties with Iran.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Warren Christopher called senior officials of the three Balkan factions to a meeting in Geneva Monday to discuss ways to shore up compliance with the Dayton, Ohio, peace accord in the face of increasing strains in the peacemaking process.

The session, which officials said is expected to last half a day, was designed as a prelude to a high-level conference on Bosnia in Moscow March 23. Christopher is scheduled to be in Geneva Monday for a meeting on the comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty.

U.S. officials said the Geneva session, which will include officials of Britain, France, Germany and Russia, will focus on disputes between the Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, the refusal of Serbs to live in Muslim-run Sarajevo and economic reconstruction.

Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum, who has just replaced Richard C. Holbrooke as the chief U.S. mediator in the Bosnian arena, is expected to fly to Geneva for the session, which will be the first such meeting since he assumed that post.

The setback in the arm-and-train effort came amid growing congressional concern about the Bosnian Muslims' ties with Islamic militants. The Senate voted Wednesday to withhold $200 million in aid to Bosnia unless that government stops sharing intelligence with Iran.