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Perry Says Bosnians Want Peace, NATO Force Can Do the Job

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy, Jan. 2, 1996 – Do the warring parties in Bosnia want peace? Can more than 30 nations operate under NATO command? Can the United States deploy in time?

According to U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry, the answer to each of these questions is yes.

"Up until now, we've been dealing with 'what if' questions, 'What if the parties don't really want peace?'" Perry said. "That question has now been answered. It is quite clear that the parties do want peace, and they are willing to comply with the Dayton agreement in order to achieve that."

Perry talked about NATO's Operation Joint Endeavor during a press conference Jan. 1 here. Accompanied by Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Staff, Perry will visit U.S. and NATO forces in Italy, Hungary and Bosnia. Perry will then visit Ukraine and the Middle East, while Shalikashvili goes on to meet with U.S. military leaders in Germany.

U.S. and NATO troops entering Bosnia are getting a warm reception, Perry said. All factions are demonstrating their desire for peace by cooperating with the NATO force, he said. The parties are demonstrating outstanding compliance with the terms of the peace agreement -- not only refraining from prohibited actions, but actively complying.

Whether the coalition of NATO and non-NATO nations uniting to bring peace to Bosnia can work effectively together is another question that remained unanswered until now, Perry said.

"What if this consortium of 15 NATO countries and about 15 other countries couldn't get its act together?" Perry asked. "That question has been decisively answered. They have gotten their act together. They've moved forward decisively in unison with quite a bit of good will and efficiency."

Perry will meet with foreign military and civilian leaders in Italy, Hungary and Bosnia.

"One of the things we'll be doing," Perry said, "especially in Sarajevo, is discussing with the IFOR (implementation force) command and with some of the foreign commanders how we continue to work together as a very strong NATO team."

Partnership for Peace member nations are participating for two reasons, Perry said. First, they want to help deal with problems in Bosnia to reduce the danger to their own countries. Second, they want to show NATO they are effective partners ready to work on an equal basis with NATO.

U.S. forces are currently answering another "what if" question, Perry said. "What if U.S. forces weren't able to rise to the occasion of dealing with the rather formidable logistics, weather and problems involved with meeting the timelines of the Dayton agreement? They have, and they are."

Although severe weather and other logistical complications have hindered the deployment of forces into Bosnia, the required timelines are being met, Perry said. "The first big date was the transfer of authority [from the United Nations to NATO] five days after signing the agreement. This took place on schedule."

Jan. 19, is the next major timeline of the Dayton agreement, Perry said, 30 days after the transfer of authority. The agreement requires a substantial number of troops to be on the ground to monitor the withdrawal of the factions from the zones of separation.

"That's really been the pacing item in getting our troops in," Perry said. "It is now clear that we're going to meet that schedule as well, not withstanding the once-in-a-century flooding of the Sava River and all of the other melodramatic events involved getting the bridge across there."

Perry and Shalikashvili will meet with U.S. commanders to learn of any problems and how they can help. "There's nothing like seeing firsthand ... going to the places where the action is, talking with the people making it happen," Perry said.

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