Clinton urges harder line on Serbian flights

December 12, 1992|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- President-elect Bill Clinton offered indirect criticism of President Bush's foreign policy yesterday, nudging the administration toward a new United Nations resolution enforcing the ban on Serbian flights over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mr. Clinton had been deliberately circumspect until yesterday when asked his views on the international crises he will inherit from Mr. Bush. But he signaled yesterday that he would take a tougher approach toward the war in the former Yugoslav republics. He said the United States and its allies should do whatever it takes, apparently including air strikes, to enforce the ban.

Mr. Clinton's comments, made during a news conference in Little Rock, Ark., came after an intensive review of the Balkan situation by his foreign policy advisers.

They have argued privately for days that because of the inaction of the Bush administration, which remains deeply divided over what to do in the Balkans, and because of mounting Serbian aggression, Mr. Clinton could not wait for Inauguration Day (Jan. 20) to make his position clear.

"I have been in favor of enforcing the no-fly zone for some time," he said, adding that enforcement "can be done from the air without a commitment of ground troops." He added: "Anything we can do to turn up the heat a little there, to try to reduce the carnage, is worth trying."

Both Britain and France, whose forces are part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, have been reluctant to allow U.S. planes to enforce the flight ban over Bosnia, fearing that the Serbs would retaliate against their forces on the ground. But Mr. Clinton said there might be some softening of British and French opposition.

In the presidential campaign, Mr. Clinton argued that the United States should take the lead in seeking U.N. authorization for air strikes to protect the relief effort to Bosnia, and should consider whether to push for a lifting of the U.N. arms embargo that unfairly hurts the Bosnians.

Mr. Clinton's remarks yesterday could put pressure on the Bush administration -- which has concluded that Serbia is routinely violating the U.N. ban on flights over Bosnia -- to decide whether or not to initiate a U.N. enforcement resolution.

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