First U.S. ambassador lauds Bosnia

July 05, 1994|By New York Times News Service

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- There were grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the words "democracy" and "freedom" floated through the sticky midsummer air.

Fireworks were absent, but much of the picnic talk at the Fourth of July opening of the U.S. Embassy focused not on that but on whether the support of the United States, this country's staunch diplomatic backer, would somehow make a difference in silencing the guns of war.

"The people of Bosnia have fought a war of resistance for over two years against an aggressor with overwhelming firepower," said Washington's first ambassador to Bosnia, Victor Jackovich, emphasizing America's "full support" for the war-torn country.

Bosnia won its independence from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia in April 1992, only to see 70 percent of its territory seized and more than 1 million of its people uprooted by nationalist Serb rebels armed by the Yugoslav army.

"The model of Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina as a multiethnic society is not just a thing of the past," Mr. Jackovich said, firmly insisting that the country must live on within its present, internationally recognized borders. "It is the way to the future."

His statement was made less than 24 hours before an American-supported proposal to partition the country is to be made in Geneva.

Mr. Jackovich said that the United States would continue to press for a diplomatic settlement to the war rather than give the Bosnians military aid.

President Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia offered thanks just before the Stars and Stripes were raised.

"At a time when some countries of the world demonstrate an almost complete indifference, the United States of America has stood behind us," he said.

But one Bosnian government official, who asked to remain unidentified, expressed the skepticism most people here feel.

"We heard pretty words today, and we know the man who spoke them did so sincerely," he said, referring to the ambassador's speech. "But do you think Washington really means it?"

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