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NATO Will Protect Bosnia Force At All Costs

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 1997 – NATO will use all means necessary, including lethal force, to protect its troops and to continue its mission in Bosnia, U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark said here Sept. 3.

"We will not be deterred by mob violence or threats of mob violence," Clark said in a brief meeting with Pentagon reporters during his first visit to Washington since becoming supreme allied commander, Europe, in July.

Clark would not speculate on the possibility of future confrontations in Bosnia, but said recent incidents of "organized disorder" are a concern because they betray a pattern by some trying to dissuade NATO's Stabilization Force from accomplishing its mission.

He said NATO forces are prepared to carry out their mission of providing a stable environment to allow civil authorities to implement the Dayton peace agreement. NATO forces will not serve as police, he said.

"It's very clear why NATO was called on to go into Bosnia," he said. "NATO has credibility; NATO has military capability; and NATO is effective at missions it undertakes. We're going to be effective in accomplishing the missions that we've been assigned in Bosnia. That's why I want to make it very clear that NATO forces are not going to be deterred or intimidated.

"Whether there's confrontation or not is entirely up to those who might seek to produce it. We're staying strictly within our mandate."

Whenever factions have threatened implementation of the Dayton agreement, NATO forces have taken action, Clark said. They recently supported International Police Task Force efforts to monitor and restructure local police forces. In Banja Luka, for example, task force officials discovered 12 tons of illegal weapons Bosnian Serbs moved into the area, Clark said.

Supporting this type of operation falls under the Dayton accord's mandate of creating a secure environment, he said. Anyone who presents a threat to NATO's mission will suffer the consequences, Clark said.

Stabilization Force leaders are preparing for the municipal elections slated Sept. 13 and 14, Clark said. A full-scale military effort is under way to ensure elections are carried out succcessfully, he said. For instance, the number of Stabilization Force troops in Bosnia was raised by overlapping unit rotations.

"This was not accidental. It was planned because we recognize there will be heavy demands on SFOR to create conditions of general security," Clark said. This includes helping the election commission led by the Organization of Security Cooperation in Europe, he said.

Clark commended SFOR troops for their work in Bosnia, their high morale, leadership, discipline and competence. "All America should be very proud of these fine representatives of this country who are serving in uniform there," he said.

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