Dole seeks curb on GIs in Bosnia Hoyer wants arms ban lifted THE BALKANS CRISIS

June 07, 1995|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- A double challenge to President Clinton's latest decisions on Bosnia took shape on Capitol Hill yesterday.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, a presidential contender, said he would offer a resolution to authorize the use of American ground forces in Bosnia, but only to help in the withdrawal of United Nations peacekeeping troops.

The resolution, if approved, would undercut American support for the U.N. peacekeeping mission and put added pressure on Mr. Clinton to seek a U.N. withdrawal.

In the House, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer planned to defy President Clinton by seeking a vote today or tomorrow on a binding measure requiring the United States to end its embargo on the sale of weapons to Bosnia's Muslim-led government, the Maryland Democrat's spokesman said.

The lifting of the embargo enjoys broad support in Congress, including from Mr. Dole.

The two proposals followed vocal opposition in Congress last week to President Clinton's offer of U.S. ground troops to help embattled U.N. forces in the Balkans move to more defensible positions.

Bowing to the criticism, the president scaled back the offer Saturday, saying U.S. ground forces would be used only to rescue U.N. forces in emergencies.

This latest shift, in the eyes of some members of Congress, has fed a perception of presidential indecisiveness.

In a Senate speech, Mr. Dole said he would introduce in the next few days the resolution limiting the role of American ground forces to the withdrawal of the entire 22,000-member U.N. peacekeeping force in Bosnia.

His move flies in the face of the position of the European allies, who say they have no intention of withdrawing their U.N. peacekeeping troops and, in fact, plan to strengthen them.

The Clinton administration has applauded the European action that would keep the peacekeepers on the ground in Bosnia.

"Withdrawing U.N. forces is the first step away from failure and toward a solution," said Mr. Dole, who has long advocated arming the Bosnian government so it could reclaim territory seized by Bosnian Serbs.

A Dole aide said the measure's purpose is "to indicate where the majority of Congress is, which is not to let the U.N. stay there and do nothing. We don't support the status quo."

Mr. Dole said his proposal would impose conditions on the use of American troops: They would have to operate under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, would have "robust" rules on retaliating if attacked and would help evacuate people but not equipment.

Passage of either the Dole or Hoyer measure is likely to be interpreted as a vote of no confidence in the way Mr. Clinton has handled the latest Bosnian crisis.

The crisis erupted when Bosnian Serbs flouted a United Nations ban on heavy weapons. After NATO punished them with airstrikes, Bosnian Serbs seized U.N. peacekeepers as hostages. Bosnian Serbs shot down a U.S. F-16 flying over Bosnia on Friday. The fate of the pilot remained uncertain yesterday.

As the action unfolded last week, Mr. Hoyer wavered over putting his amendment to lift the arms embargo to a House vote. He decided to go ahead this week because of the downing of the American pilot and a new appeal from the Bosnians, according to Jesse Jacobs, his spokesman.

Mr. Hoyer plans to chair a hearing featuring Bosnia's prime minister tomorrow, Mr. Jacobs said.

Samuel Berger, the president's deputy national security adviser, tried to persuade Mr. Hoyer to abandon the legislation in a 20-minute phone conversation Monday, Mr. Jacobs said.

The administration opposes a unilateral lifting of the arms embargo by the United States since the ban was imposed on all nations by the U.N. Security Council.

The administration also said that the Bosnians would need training from Americans in the use of heavy weapons, thus "Americanizing" the conflict.

The Hoyer amendment would be attached to a foreign-aid bill now before the House.

President Clinton has said he would veto the bill as currently drafted, but administration officials and members of both parties are hoping the final version will be acceptable to the White House.

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