WASHINGTON, Aug. 20 -- With three of its members dead, the delegation of U.S. diplomats that carried a peace plan to Sarajevo Saturday will be met at Andrews Air Force Base Monday by Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Secretary of Defense William Perry, the State Department announced Sunday. The three negotiators died Saturday in what their leader, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, said 'was an automobile accident, but caused by war.' Christopher cut short his vacation on the West Coast to return to Washington, where he will 'reinforce' the negotiating team now that some of its top experts on the tangled history of the area are dead, a State Department spokeswoman said. Three wooden coffins draped in American flags were airlifted from the Bosnian capital at dawn Sunday, to start the long journey home. Holbrooke witnessed the crash of an armored personnel carrier that killed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Frasure, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph J. Kruzel, Air Force Col. Samuel Nelson Drew of the National Security Council and a French peacekeeper, whose body was being airlifted to Croatia Sunday afternoon. 'What happened on the Mount Igman road was an automobile accident, but caused by war,' Holbrooke said. 'The side of the road gave way, the APC tumbled down the road, bounced through the trees, hit the road around the loop and continued down.' Witnesses reported seeing the vehicle trigger two land mine explosions but a State Department spokesman Saturday said there apparently was no explosives involved other than the fuel carried by the heavy French personnel carrier.
A ceremony is planned upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base. President Clinton, vacationing in Wyoming, declared the nation in mourning Saturday, lowering American flags on all government facilities to half staff until sunset, Wednesday. Interim Bosnian Vice President Ethem Bicakcic, in a bitter statement issued Sunday, said the deaths on the rain-slick Mount Igman road -- the only ground route controlled by the Bosnian government -- were the result of an indecisive policy in the Balkans pursued by the United Nations. 'The American diplomats got killed because of indecisive action, inconsistency and unspeakable irresponsibility,' he said in a statement broadcast over Sarajevo television Sunday afternoon. The diplomatic convoy was on a shuttle diplomacy mission, presenting a U.S.-brokered peace plan to Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian leaders. 'They were killed because the U.N. has not got the willingness nor the strength to order the terrorist Serbs to open the airports in Sarajevo and in Tuzla,' Bicakcic charged. 'If these airports were open, the American diplomats would be safe and sound today.' Meanwhile, search teams were still looking for four crew members missing in the crash of a British helicopter into the Adriatic off the Croatian coast Sunday while on a training mission. U.N. officials also reported that three children were killed after a Bosnian Serb shell slammed into Gorazde at midmorning Sunday. A boy, 3, and a girl, 7, were killed in the attack, said U.N. spokeswoman Miriam Sochaki. The gender of the third child could not immediately be determined because of the damage done by the explosion, she said.