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1-year U.S. timetable for troops in Bosnia now called an estimate Top officials leave open possibility that mission could take longer


WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration, which told Congress last week that 20,000 U.S. troops that would be sent to help enforce a peace accord in Bosnia would come home ZTC within a year, now says that the one-year time frame is merely an estimate.

In separate appearances on television news shows yesterday, Secretary of Defense William J. Perry and Secretary of State Warren Christopher left open the possibility that the mission could be longer.

Asked on the NBC news program "Meet the Press" whether he could guarantee that the United States would stay in Bosnia only a year, Mr. Perry said: "Not at this time. Certainly not until we see the peace agreement."

Mr. Perry also acknowledged that the United States would not know its precise mission in Bosnia until a peace agreement is completed. "We don't know in full detail what we're going to be asked to do," he said. "And so, until we get that, we cannot commit to that one year."

By contrast, when Sen. Dirk Kempthorne, an Idaho Republican, asked Mr. Perry in a hearing Tuesday for assurances that under no circumstances American troops would be in Bosnia for more than a year, Mr. Perry replied, "I cannot conceive of the circumstances which would motivate me to come back and ask an extension of that time."

Mr. Christopher, appearing yesterday on the CBS News program "Face the Nation," also declined to set one year as the fixed deadline.

"We're using a year as the approximate date," he said. "I think a year is a solid estimate as to the amount of time that our military forces would be there."

Asked what would happen if a year came and went and peace still was uncertain, Mr. Christopher replied: "We don't expect that to happen."

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