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Clinton Asks Bosnians to Opt for Peace

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 1997 – President Clinton called on Bosnians of all ethnic groups to fulfill the agreements made at Dayton and to work together to promote peace.

Clinton spoke to Sarajevans at the National Theater, Dec. 22. He told them he and his family had had coffee with young residents of the city before the speech. He asked what the United States could do to help Bosnia. "And in unison they said, 'Stay,'" Clinton said.

Clinton contrasted conditions in Bosnia today vs. earlier times. "Only a little more than two years ago, men, women and children ran the gauntlet of snipers and shells in a desperate search for water," he said. "Now they walk in security to work and school."

He noted city services had returned and economic life was making strides. And he noted Bosnians of all ethnic and religious backgrounds are working together. "The people of Bosnia can make [peace] happen," Clinton said. "The example that ordinary citizens set among your neighbors, the standards that you demand from your leaders will determine this nation's fate."

Clinton said it is possible for people to get over hatreds and get on with life. He pointed to the American Civil War as one example. "In America, one race literally enslaved another," he said. "It took the bloodiest war in our history to break the chains of bondage and more than 100 years of effort since then to root out their consequences. And we're still working at it.

"But we grow always stronger as we let more and more of our fears and prejudices go."

Clinton had advice for the elected leaders of Bosnia -- he told them they had to keep the promises they made when they signed the Dayton Peace accords. "Your responsibility is to turn the documents signed in Dayton into a living reality; to make good on the pledge to bring Bosnia together as one country, with two multiethnic parts, sharing a common destiny."

He said leaders who work toward those goals will have the full support of the United States and the international community. "Those who shirk [working toward those goals] will isolate themselves," he said. "The world which continues to invest in your peace rightfully expects that you will continue to do your part."

Clinton thanked everyone who participated in the peace implementation force, the stabilization force and civilian projects to rebuild Bosnia. "God bless you all for what you have done and what you will do to change the face and the future of Bosnia," he said.

Clinton ended with a call for peace. "You have seen what war has wrought; now you know what peace can bring," he said. "So seize the chance before you. You can do nothing to change the past; but if you can let it go, you can do everything to build a future. The world is watching, and the world is with you. But the choice is yours. May you make the right one."

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