Diplomats at U.N. irritated at White House's handling of Bosnian crisis

February 11, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

UNITED NATIONS -- A mood of annoyance and irritation is festering among ambassadors and officials here over what they regard as the Clinton administration's hesitant, clumsy handling of the Bosnia-Herzegovina crisis.

The United States, according to this view, has undercut the work of former Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, and it may have made it more difficult for the United Nations to forge some kind of a peace agreement.

"I am astonished," said a European ambassador on the Security Council, "and I feel a good deal of disquiet."

That mood of disquiet is heightened by a feeling that the $H administration took a great deal of time to come up with a policy that, in general, doesn't differ greatly from the peace agreement proposed by Mr. Vance and former British Foreign Secretary Lord Owen.

"Frankly, it has been very annoying," said a European diplomat.

But in public, Mr. Vance and Lord Owen said they welcomed the U.S. policy announced in Washington by Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher.

The two negotiators praised "the decision of the American government to take an active role in the former Yugoslavia and to back their political commitment with a readiness to enforce a comprehensive settlement."

Mr. Vance and Lord Owen added that they "will continue to keep the pressure on" for a peace pact in discussions under way in the Security Council," said their spokesman, Fred Eckhard.

Although some U.N. officials were relieved that the administration did not squelch the Vance-Owen peace process, uncertainty lingered over the most novel element of the policy announced by Mr. Christopher: the appointment of Ambassador Reginald Bartholomew as a special envoy to the Bosnian negotiations.

Some officials feared that the warring parties may now assume that all bargaining starts anew.

"If he's going to go and negotiate with all three parties again," said a U.N. official, "then we will all have a long wait."

The irritation in New York was exacerbated by the United Nations' first encounter with Mr. Christopher more than a week ago.

He told a news conference then that the Israelis had promised to take back 100 of the Palestinians they had accused of being Muslim extremists and deported; he said they would allow the rest to come back in a year. This deal, Mr. Christopher said, would satisfy the Security Council, which had demanded the return of all 400 deportees.

"But it was not up to Christopher to decide what the Security Council would or would not accept," said the European ambassador.

"The Clinton administration keeps telling us that it supports the United Nations in full. Yet, on the first two issues that it has encountered here, the administration is trying to act unilaterally. That is troubling."

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