NATO-led peacekeeping forces may face increased danger in Bosnia this summer with the approach of elections, Defense Secretary William Perry said.
"We expect there to be more turbulence and more problems in Bosnia this summer as a result of the refugee resettling and the impending elections," Perry said at a news conference Wednesday with his Portuguese counterpart, Antonio Vitorino.The election is expected to be held in September, although that remains in doubt.
Perry was quick to add that he believes the 60,000-strong peace-keeping force, which includes about 19,000 American troops, is capable of handling the additional security problems.
Perry flew Thursday to Lajes Field on the island of Terceira in the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic, where he visited briefly with U.S. troops. The U.S. Air Force troops at Lajes perform refueling and other support functions.
At the news conference in Lisbon, Perry also said he expected NATO governments to hold talks in the fall on what military role the alliance might play in Bosnia after the peacekeeping mission that began last year ends in December.
"When that is completed, when the elections are completed as I expect that they will successfully be this fall, it is I think appropriate to look at what additional support NATO might be asked to provide to Bosnia," Perry said.
Perry said he remained certain the peacekeeping mission would end on schedule.