State Dept.'s specialist on Bosnia quits in protest Official criticizes White House policy

August 05, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The State Department's specialist on Bosnia resigned yesterday, charging that the Clinton administration was putting undue pressure on the Sarajevo government to agree to the partition of the country.

It was the second time in a year that the State Department official who manages Bosnia issues on a day-to-day basis had resigned to protest U.S. policy in the area.

The resignation by Marshall Freeman Harris, the State Department desk officer on Bosnia, comes as Serbian forces continue to tighten their hold on Sarajevo despite NATO's threat of air strikes, and reflects continued dissension in the ranks of the Foreign Service about U.S. policy in the region.

The Clinton administration has argued that it is doing what it can to ease the plight of the Bosnia Muslims in the face of Western European opposition to stronger measures.

Administration officials also say they want the Bosnian government to accept the fact that it has lost the war and to agree to the partition of the country in the talks under way in Geneva.

In a letter of resignation to Secretary of State Warren Christopher dated yesterday, Mr. Harris asserted that the U.S. push for air strikes was too little, came too late and represented an abandonment of the administration's earlier stance that Bosnia should be preserved as an independent state.

"I can no longer serve in a Department of State that accepts the forceful dismemberment of a European state and that will not act against genocide and the Serbian officials who perpetrate it," Mr. Harris wrote.

He charged that the Clinton administration had "missed or mishandled" earlier opportunities to persuade the allies to agree to lifting the arms embargo on the Bosnian Muslims so the Muslim-led government could defend itself.

Mike McCurry, a spokesman for Mr. Christopher, defended the administration's diplomatic efforts.

He said Mr. Harris had "not played any real role in the administration's more aggressive policy on Bosnia."

Administration officials described the 32-year-old Mr. Harris as a hard-working official with a promising career who was committed to the cause of preserving the multiethnic Bosnian state.

Mr. Harris joined the Foreign Service in 1985 after earning a law degree.

He became the State Department's desk officer for Bosnia in February.

His resignation recalled the departure of George D. Kenney during the Bush administration.

Mr. Kenney resigned as the State Department's deputy chief of Yugoslav affairs last August, charging that the Bush administration had failed to take action to deal with the growing crisis in the Balkans.

More recently, there have been other indications that mid-level officials have been frustrated by the reluctance of Western powers to intervene to try to quell the fighting in Bosnia.

In April, for instance, the State Department's top experts on U.S. policy in the Balkans sent a private petition to Mr. Christopher calling for military action against the Serbs.

Mr. Harris was among the petitioners.

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