THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE POOL
The South Portico
3:55 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Today, while negotiations were being held on a cease-fire in Bosnia, the Serbs launched a new attack on Gorazde. These attacks have resulted in heavy casualties and have put United Nations personnel there at risk.
UNPROFOR Commander General Rose requested and received authorization from U.N. civilian authorities to receive NATO close air support. Under existing authority and policy, NATO forces promptly responded. U.S. F-16 aircraft under NATO command attacked at least one target identified by UNPROFOR. French aircraft under NATO are now conducting a damage assessment.
We have said we would act if we were requested to do so. We have now done so and will do so again if we are requested. The Serbs should cease their attacks on Gorazde and should pull back. The talks on cessation of hostilities in Bosnia should resume. We were at quite an important point in these discussions when these attacks interrupted the progress of the discussions, and I very much hope that now the attacks will cease, that the Serbs will pull back, that the talks will resume on cessation of hostilities.
I have a great deal of confidence in General Rose's determination. We strongly supported his decision, and I applaud the rapid response of the U.N. civilian authorities.
Q What about Serb retaliation, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I have no reason to believe there will be any. We were retaliating. We -- the United Nations made it absolutely clear that there were U.N. personnel in Gorazde, that an attack on the town would be interpreted as a clear violation of the rules. And it happened anyway. General Rose asked for the air support and civilian authorities approved it in a prompt fashion, and we supported it.
Q After the bombing raid, we had reports that there were antiaircraft missiles fired into the suburbs. Do you know --
THE PRESIDENT: I can't -- excuse me?
Q at the houses.
THE PRESIDENT: I can't confirm that at this time.
Q Mr. President, did you know about the bombing raid before it took place?
THE PRESIDENT: We knew that General Rose had asked for it before it took place, yes. With only -- it all happened in fairly rapid succession. There was not a long time delay now between when he asked for the support from the civilian authorities and when they gave it. But we've been keeping on top of this, you know. I -- on two successive days, Thursday and Friday, I talked with the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and National Security Advisor about this. I was kept informed yesterday, and then we talked again this morning. It became clear to me that General Rose would probably ask, and when he asked I was told and we were told as soon as Mr. Akashi approved it.
Q So what do you think is going to happen next, sir? Do you think this is the end of it, or are you fearful that NATO will have to strike again?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. I think we have to be firm. We have seen in the past that when we have been firm in support of the United Nations mission, that it has tended to further negotiations. That's all we're trying to do, is to further negotiations.
Let me make one other comment, if I might. As you all know, we've been very concerned about the safety of Americans in Rwanda. As far as we know now, the last of the convoys containing all Americans who wish to leave has either passed into Burundi or is about to pass into Burundi.
And I just want to say a special word of thanks and gratitude on behalf of our entire nation to our Ambassador, Ambassador Rawson, for the remarkable way in which he has handled himself and in which he went about guaranteeing the security and safety of American citizens during this very difficult situation. There may be more to say about that tomorrow. But for now, I just think we all ought to be grateful to him for the role he played in getting our people out to safety.
Q Do you think this is a one time only attack in Bosnia? Do you think we'll have to use our air power again there?
THE PRESIDENT: I think we have to be prepared to do it. But I don't have any reason to believe one way or the other -- I'm not hopeful, I'm not skeptical. I just think that -- you know, sometimes the command and control is not very tight there; the communications aren't all that tight. This may have been something that happened that was not authorized by any central authority on the part of the Bosnian Serbs. So I just think this is a clear expression of the will of NATO and the will of the United Nations and the UNPROFOR operation there. And it's a clear call to the Serbs to pull back from Gorazde and resume the negotiations.
Thank you very much.
Q Do you have a response to the minister who wants to legalize drugs, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: I disagree.
END4:04 P.M. EDT