Clinton hasn't sold U.S. on Bosnia, GOP says Dole, Gingrich spend 2 hours with president


WASHINGTON -- Republican congressional leaders yesterday told President Clinton his efforts to date to swing political and public support behind the deployment of U.S. troops to Bosnia have failed.

The message was delivered to the White House by Republicans Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, the Senate majority leader and leading GOP presidential contender, and House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia.

Also attending the meeting were the Democratic minority leaders of both chambers, Sen. Thomas A. Daschle of South Dakota and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.

"If anything, there is less support than a month ago," said Mr. Gingrich after a two-hour meeting with Mr. Clinton.

Mr. Clinton, he said, still faces "a very considerable" challenge in persuading Congress and the American public that deploying as many as 20,000 American troops as part of a 60,000-strong NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia is a "reasonable risk of young American lives."

Said Senator Dole: "I think the president knows the American people need to be persuaded this is in our national interest, and he hopefully can spell that out at some later time."

Opinion polls show that only one in three Americans support sending Americans to Bosnia, where they are to be charged with keeping the previously warring factions apart once peace is declared. The administration says they will be there only a year.

Led by Mr. Clinton, top administration officials have argued that vital U.S. interests are at stake in creating and maintaining peace in Bosnia. They cite stability in Europe, U.S. global leadership and the survival of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Mr. Clinton has announced he will seek congressional support for the deployment, but will send the troops even if Congress opposes it.

Arguing the administration case yesterday, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott recalled that the 20th century opened with World War I, which started in the Balkans, and warned that another Balkans war would close the century with "gruesome symmetry."

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