WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Warren Christopher said Wednesday the United States is doing everything within its power to bring peace to the Balkans and will not act militarily to prevent the fall of Sarajevo.
Christopher painstakingly laid out America's interests in Bosnia- Herzegovina -- providing humanitarian relief, preventing the conflict from spreading and bringing war criminals to justice -- but made it clear that President Clinton would not go beyond those objectives.
Describing the Balkan bloodbath as 'the world's most difficult diplomatic problem,' the secretary of state said the administration 'hopes there will be a better result' than the fall of Sarajevo but shot down any suggestion that Washington was rethinking its policy toward military involvement in the Balkans.
'The United States has not reached any other conclusion,' Christopher told reporters. 'The United States is doing all that it can consistent with its national interest.'
Christopher, the consumate tactful diplomat, spoke rather undiplomatically about Europe's refusal to back Clinton's 'lift and strike' strategy for helping the Muslim-dominated Bosnian government.
The secretary of state was rebuffed several months ago by Great Britain, France and Russia during a trip to sell the president's plan to lift the arms embargo on the Bosnian government and protect them with air strikes until weapons arrived.
He said Clinton and his top aides 'continue to think that was the best option.
'That's the preferred option,' Christopher said. 'We continue to regret the fact that the Europeans could not be persuaded to go down that road.'
Washington and its allies in Europe and Russia decided instead to create 'safe havens' in Bosnia-Herzegovina where Muslims forced from their homes by marauding Serbs could flee.
But Christopher conceded that the seven regions designated as safe areas, which include Sarajevo, are anything but safe.
'It certainly seems not to have been effective in connection with some of the safe havens,' he said.
Although Croatia and its surrogates in Bosnia-Herzegovina have not been viewed as major instigators in the Balkan mayhem, paramilitary forces loyal to Zagreb have recently fought pitched battles with government troops over real estate abutting the border.
If Croatians continue that activity, Christopher said, they run the risk of being slapped with U.N. sanctions and becoming an international mongrel like Serbia.
'Any of those who continue to dismember Bosnia would be subject to being in a pariah status,' he said. 'That goes for Serbia and could go for Croatia if it continues along those lines.'