THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN PHOTO OPPORTUNITY WITH FOREIGN POLICY GROUP The Cabinet Room
9:19 A.M. EDT
Q What can you tell us about the latest air strikes in Bosnia?
THE PRESIDENT: That the latest strikes were a direct response to General Rose's request for close air support; that the continued Serb shelling of Gorazde put the U.N. personnel there in danger; and that the air strikes were conducted in strict accordance of existing U.N. policy.
Q Can you tell us how many aircraft, what type, and what kind of targets they hit?
THE PRESIDENT: They did hit some targets, and you'll be briefed about the details.
Q Is the U.N. going to defend the people of Gorazde -- however you pronounce?
THE PRESIDENT: The United Nations is carrying out its mission there, and when they -- they're attempting to reassert Gorazde as a safe area, which it has agreed to do; they're encouraging the Serbs to withdraw from the safe area and to resume negotiations and to stop the shelling.
And if they are put at risk in the course of doing that mission, they can ask for NATO close air support. That's what they have done, and we have done our best to provide it.
Q Only the U.N. personnel is our concern?
THE PRESIDENT: The U.N. resolution gives NATO the authority to act. We are acting solely under the existing U.N. resolution which has been approved by the Security Council.
Q Would it be -- setting up an exclusion zone around Gorazde like -- in Sarajevo?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, what the United Nations wants is for the Serbs to stop the shelling and to withdraw and to resume the negotiations. I don't want to compare it exactly to Sarajevo. There are some tactical and factual differences, but that's what they want. And NATO simply responded to the request for air support in carrying out the U.N. mission.
Q Did you talk to Mr. Yeltsin about this latest --
THE PRESIDENT: No, I talked to him last evening, and he was going to be out of pocket today. So we had quite a long talk last night. And I told him that -- I explained that this was different from what happened at Sarajevo. There was a clearly existing U.N. policy, the same policy under which we acted when the planes were shot down, you remember, a few weeks ago, but that I thought we ought to have close coordination with the Russians. After all, the Russians are a part of the UNPROFOR delegation there. They
have soldiers on the ground in Bosnia. And we had a good talk. And I think there have been further communications today between the Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister and between the Secretary of Defense and the Defense Minister. So we are trying to work very closely with the Russians. They have a critical role to play if we are going to get these peace talks going again. And I hope we can.
THE PRESIDENT: We had quite a good talk, I thought. I explained to him what happened. I think in the beginning he was concerned that he didn't know about it in advance. I explained clearly what happened -- that the United Nations asked for this; that Boutros-Ghali, the day before, had put out a press release supporting this action if the shelling didn't stop; that General Rose had received the appropriate approval from the civilian authority in Bosnia, and that it was an action taken under existing authority; and that indeed, I thought, that the U.N. had notified all the UNPROFOR members that it would be taken, but that it was not any kind of new or different thing.
And when these things occur, there is often not a lot of time. There was just, you know, somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour and a half, I think, the decision-making time. I don't know the exact time, but we responded in an entirely appropriate way, I think, under the circumstances.
END9:25 A.M. EDT