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CLINTON TRIP IS INTENDED TO REASSURE NATO ALLIES

SHARE CLINTON TRIP IS INTENDED TO REASSURE NATO ALLIES

President Clinton was flying to the Budapest summit Sunday to reassert the U.S. commitment to NATO and European security at a time when a policy split on the Bosnian-Herzegovina crisis has threatened the unity of the Atlantic Alliance.

The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) drew heads of government from throughout the continent, including Russia's President Boris Yeltsin, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, British Prime Minister John Major and French President Francois Mitterrand.But there will be little time for Clinton to sit down with Major and Mitterrand to iron out troubling differences over the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina where the Serbian forces have already overrun 70 percent of the territory.

Instead, his few hours in Bosnia will be devoted to signing de-nuclearization agreements and security assurances for Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, former Soviet republics which have given up their nuclear arsenals.

The president will address the plenary session and speak at the signing ceremony.

Because of his heavy schedule, Clinton had been reluctant to make the one-day trip abroad, but a senior administration official said the president "decided it was important for the symbolic demonstration of the U.S. commitment to the CSCE and to a broader arrangement in dealing with European security."

Security assurances also will be given to Yeltsin who is wary of plans to expand NATO.

The issue of Bosnia-Herzegovina has defied Clinton's search for a peace policy, raising tensions with France and Britain who have thousands of troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina as peacekeepers.

Both allies have blocked Clinton's plans to use NATO's air power to push the hard driving Serbian leadership to the negotiating table.

French officials have insinuated that the U.S. has no right to call the shots in Bosnia since it has not contributed ground troops to the UN peacekeepers.