The United States' top diplomats are converging on Washington with a dual mission: to pay tribute to the three American officials killed in Bosnia and to restart their efforts to broker a Bosnian peace settlement.
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke and the other remaining U.S. delegates headed home Sunday with the bodies of the fallen diplomats, who died in a highway accident on their way to peace talks in Sarajevo on Saturday. Their deaths stripped Holbrooke of his most important aides and crippled the U.S. diplomatic initiative in the former Yugoslavia.President Clinton will leave his vacation retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and fly to the memorial services for the three Americans at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday.
"He wanted to attend the memorial service to pay his respect to the Americans who were killed," said Deputy White House Press Secretary Ginny Terzano. "He knew each of them personally and wanted to be there with their families and friends," she said.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher flew to Washington from California to meet with his top deputies as well as Defense Secretary William Perry and National Security Adviser Anthony Lake.
The goal of the meetings will be "to take steps to reinforce the (negotiating) team and help them get their work back under way," State Department spokesman David Johnson said Sunday.
But despite Clinton's pledge to step up the peace efforts, administration officials acknowledged that the deaths of the American negotiators have made U.S. diplomatic initiatives even more difficult.
Holbrooke, Christopher and Perry were to attend a ceremony Monday at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington honoring the three who perished: Robert Frasure, a deputy assistant secretary of state; Joseph Kruzel, deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO affairs; and Samuel Nelson Drew, an Air Force colonel and National Security Council aide.
At an observance on Sunday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, pallbearers in dress uniforms carried the flag-draped wooden coffins bearing the three men's remains from the medical evacuation plane to olive-drab Mercedes vans as a 30-member honor guard stood by in silence.
Holbrooke, accompanying the coffins, vowed to return to the Balkans on Aug. 28 to resume peace talks. He did not say who would take the place of his lost aides.
"No one can replace them, but we will reconstitute the team," he said.
An administration official noted
that many experts, including Frasure, the chief U.S. negotiator in the effort to end the Bosnian war, already had been skeptical that the talks would succeed.
Frasure had been frustrated by the refusal of rebel Serbs to negotiate with the Bosnian government.
Previous peace missions failed over the Serbs' refusal to negotiate with the Muslims. A five-nation proposal to give the Serbs control of 49 percent of the country was rejected. To try to induce the Serbs to change their minds, the Clinton administration stressed that the map could be altered once talks began.