Christopher aide challenges policy

June 25, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- A top State Department human rights official has privately challenged Secretary of State Warren Christopher's public assertions that all three sides share responsibility for atrocities in Bosnia.

In recent testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Christopher asserted that Muslims, Serbs, and Croats were all to blame for attacks on civilians.

Mr. Christopher used this argument to rebut suggestions that the United States has a moral obligation to help protect the beleaguered Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina and to justify limited involvement.

But James K. Bishop, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, told Mr. Christopher in a memorandum soon after the testimony that the U.N. reports cited by the secretary in his appearance before the committee actually showed that the Serbs were responsible for most of the atrocities.

"Even more important is the absence of support by the Bosnian government for the relatively few atrocities that have been committed by the forces under its control," Mr. Bishop added.

When the Clinton administration failed to persuade the Europeans to go along with its plan to arm the Bosnian Muslims and protect them with air strikes, the administration began to redefine the conflict as a three-way feud with no clear aggressors and victims.

The change in the administration's stance was underscored with Mr. Christopher appearaance before the House committee in May.

But Soon after the hearing, Mr. Bishop sent a confidential memo to Christopher, alerting the secretary that the thrust of his testimony ran counter to State Department reports to the United Nations on human rights abuses.

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