Bush to spend New Year's Eve in Somalia

December 23, 1992|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- In a final flourish to his performance as commander-in-chief, President Bush will spend New Year's Eve in Somalia with the U.S. troops he sent to rescue the starving victims of tribal warfare there, it was announced yesterday.

Mr. Bush, who has less than a month left in his term, is apparently trying to re-create one of the most poignant experiences of his presidency: his visit on Thanksgiving Day, 1990, to the American forces waiting in the sands of Saudi Arabia for the onset of the Persian Gulf war.

The brief Somalia trip is intended to "demonstrate our concern for the people of Somalia, our commitment to humanitarian assistance, and our support for American and United Nations forces," according to a statement released by White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater.

Mr. Bush is scheduled to set out for the West African nation next Wednesday in time to bring in the new year with some of the 28,000 U.S. troops he ordered into action there earlier this month.

"When he deploys forces he wants them to know he's with him physically as well as in spirit," one administration official explained.

On Jan. 1, the president plans to visit the relief operations being safeguarded by U.S. forces and leave Somalia that night.

Details on what sites Mr. Bush might visit or how far into the country he might get beyond the capital of Mogadishu were still being worked out last night, officials said.

The Somalia mission is just one of several foreign policy ventures in which Mr. Bush has been engaged in the dwindling days of his term. He and British Prime Minister John Major agreed over the weekend to come up with a new plan for enforcing the no-fly zone over Bosnia, which is under siege.

And he is negotiating almost daily by phone with Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin, in hopes of completing work on a strategic arms limitation agreement, known as START II, before Mr. Bush leaves office Jan. 20. If they succeed, Mr. Bush may take one last trip abroad, to join Mr. Yeltsin in a signing ceremony.

U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali also plans to visit Somalia. U.N. officials said yesterday he would go early in January, before or after he attends a meeting of Somalian political factions in Ethiopia Jan. 4. It was unclear if Mr. Boutros-Ghali and Mr. Bush would meet.

Mr. Boutros-Ghali insisted again yesterday that the allied force should stay until it has disarmed all gunmen in Somalia. Mr. Bush has favored a more limited mission and said he would like to pull U.S. troops out next month.

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