ANXIOUS TO avoid confrontation with the allies, President Clinton has signalled that he has put on ice his own proposals for military intervention in Bosnia and will consider 'less extreme' options advocated by Britain and France.
In an interview published in yesterday's Washington Post, the President said he respected the reluctance of the European allies to go along with his preferred plan, which would involve supplying arms to the Bosnian Muslims while holding Serbian nationalists at bay with air strikes.
Later, in a formal White House press conference, Mr Clinton reiterated that he would not intervene in Bosnia without European support. 'We must work together,' he declared. The President also repeated that he would not commit United States ground forces 'on behalf of one or the other of the belligerents'.
The President spoke in support of a United Nations resolution that would send monitors to the Serbia-Bosnia border, saying it would be a 'very good step'. But there were no plans to add US troops to the group, he said, which would check on the declared embargo between Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs.
In the Washington Post interview, Mr Clinton said his original plan remained on the table and if no progress was made over the coming days after this weekend's referendum on the peace plan in Bosnia, he would take it back to the Europeans once again. His administration had decided to 'press the Europeans not to take our preferred strategy off the table and then recognise with some sensitivity their strong feeling that they ought to take a few more days' to judge the outcome of the referendum and see if the embargo against the Bosnian Serbs announced by the Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, is genuine.
While his own plan is on one side, the alternatives for Mr Clinton include using air strikes alone and contributing to an international force to protect Muslims in 'safe havens' - a plan championed notably by France.
On the safe haven proposal, Mr Clinton said: 'I'm not there yet,' expressing concern that havens would do little in the longer run to establish a political solution. But he added: 'The idea of stopping ethnic cleansing and stopping the violence is, to me, the most compelling argument for the safe havens.'
Meanwhile, the President accepted that air strikes alone might have an effect 'if the purpose is to level the playing field'. At the subsequent press conference, however, he appeared to veer back towards ruling out air strikes on their own.
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