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HOUSE VOTES TO ORDER CLINTON TO END U.S. ROLE IN ARMS EMBARGO

SHARE HOUSE VOTES TO ORDER CLINTON TO END U.S. ROLE IN ARMS EMBARGO

Spurning last-minute lobbying attempts by the administration, the House voted on Thursday to order President Clinton to circumvent the NATO alliance and end U.S. participation in the arms embargo to the Bosnian government.

In an emotional and anguished debate, 117 Democrats joined 127 Republicans to vote for Washington to act alone in the former Yugoslavia. The measure, which passed 244 to 178, was a stern rebuke to the president and an expression of House members' frustration with what they said was a lack of resolve in American foreign policy."If the president had acted like the leader of the free world rather than acting like he's one more bit player on the world stage, this tragedy could have been averted," Rep. Francis X. McCloskey, the Indiana Democrat who sponsored the measure, told reporters after the vote.

To those who argued that lifting the embargo would place the United States clearly on the side of the Bosnian government, Rep. David E. Bonior, of Michigan, said: "Let's be honest. We already are in this war." Denying arms to Bosnia, he said, "tilts the war in favor of Serb aggression." The Serbs now claim 72 percent of Bosnian territory and heavily outgun the Bosnian Muslims.

Still, the vote, in the face of a divided Democratic leadership, does not mean that the embargo will be lifted. It marked only one step in a process that is bound to be problematic both as legislation - because the Senate must agree to it - and as a defiant international gesture.

The measure requires Clinton to order the Navy, customs offices, and the postal service, which are now preventing arms and military supplies from getting through to Bosnia, to no longer do so. At the moment, the Navy has two ships, a cruiser and a destroyer, in the Adriatic Sea dedicated to blocking arms and enforcing the no-flight zone. A total U.N. task force of 20 ships from 11 countries is enforcing the arms embargo in the Adriatic.

In addition, the House measure authorizes Clinton, but doesn't require him, to send up to $200 million in defense materiel and services to Bosnia if the government asks for it.

After the House approved this measure, it rejected by a vote of 242 to 181 an administration-backed proposal that would merely have urged the president to seek a U.N. agreement to suspend or limit the arms embargo.

Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, the Indiana Democrat who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee and introduced this alternative, said that his proposal would help the peace effort, "not torpedo it."