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                           The White House
                          {Zagreb, Croatia}
For Immediate Release                             January 13, 1996
                          PRESS BRIEFING BY
                            MIKE MCCURRY

                           Zagreb, Croatia

6:45 P.M. (L)

MR. MCCURRY: (In progress) -- wide variety of religious leaders from around Bosnia, including the Roman Catholic bishop of Sarajevo, the Catholic bishop of Banja Luca, who just recently was released from prison and who saw the cardinals from Sarajevo for the first time since the war began. And they had a very joyful reunion there in the President's midst.

They met with leaders of the Orthodox Church, leaders of the Catholic Church, leaders of the Jewish community, the Chief Imam of the major mosque in Sarajevo. So it was really a testimony to the ability of parties we hope to work together for the successful implementation of the peace process.

On the meeting with President Izetbegovic, as expected, the President covered aspects of the implementation, raised the subject of foreign troop presence in Bosnia and the importance of maintaining the commitments made in the Dayton Accord as to their removal by the deadlines then indicated. They talked for some great length about economic reconstruction efforts, and the President pointed to the work of Ambassador Robert Gallucci, who was present at the meeting, and the importance the United States places to his effort, which will be in conjunction with the work done by Carl Bildt of the European Union, who is the head of the civilian implementation aspects of the Dayton Accords, who is also here with the President on the trip and is here in Zagreb right now.

The President then journeyed here. As you know, he's meeting privately with President Tudjman, and as he just indicated, he expects to talk about the Federation, the importance of deepening Bosniac-Croat contacts; secondly, the importance of finding peaceful solutions to the issue of Eastern Slovonia and concerns that we have raised about the need for a diplomatic solution to that conflict. And lastly, they also talked about economic reconstruction efforts and the Croatians' interest in closer working relationships with the rest of Europe.

That's all I wanted to do on my dime. Any before we shut down -- we intend, by the way, to preserve as much filing time as we can after the President's meeting. But everyone, obviously, will be anxious to get home.

Q That first meeting, would you describe that as unprecedented on any level in terms of --

MR. MCCURRY: This was, in the sense of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, an unprecedented gathering of leaders from each of the religious and ethnic communities of Bosnia, and a gathering that would literally have been impossible during the years of the war, and now is possible and, indeed, very encouraging as the peace process begins to take hold.

Q Is this the first visit of a President to Croatia, and I assume for Bosnia since it didn't exist until --

MR. MCCURRY: It's the first visit since Croatia was a public in the former Yugoslav Republic. It's the first, to my knowledge, since President Nixon may have been to Zagreb in the early 1970s. President Ford would have visited Yugoslavia, if I'm not mistaken, in 1975, but I don't believe he came to Zagreb. He was in Belgrade. And since the breakup, this would be, obviously, the first visit by any President.

Q Who pulled that meeting together? Who pulled that meeting -- and over what time frame was that?

MR. MCCURRY: A lot by the embassy staff in Sarajevo, working with the community leaders. Ambassador Holbrooke spent a lot of time encouraging the people to participate. Chris Hill was, I think, one of the key people in helping to arrange it. But certainly it was, again, the occasion of the visit by the President as we've seen in Northern Ireland and elsewhere that stimulates an ability of parties to set aside differences and come together and begin discussions.

We left behind, by the way, Ambassador Menzes (phonetic), who went to Tuzla from Sarajevo, remain with this extraordinary group to find ways that might encourage them to continue meeting together and continue their dialogue in the hopes that communities and their constituencies might want to begin dialogues aimed at reconciliation.

So that, I think, in many ways as from the diplomatic or political aspect of today's trip was the single-most encouraging thing the President saw. He obviously was extremely proud to see all of the troops -- the bulk of his day has been devoted, as you know, to seeing the U.S. military presence contributing to the international force -- but the peace process itself and civilian aspects of implementation have been a constant theme today, with Brian Atwood from AID participating in discussions, and many of the discussions with the leaders themselves centering on the need for economic renewal in Bosnia in the aftermath of the war.

Q The meeting between the mayor of Sarajevo -- did you get any readout of something following on from that? Did either of them make a commitment?

MR. MCCURRY: There was not a commitment made. We were encouraging them to think of ways that their dialogue, which began literally while the President was in the room -- our understanding is that there was -- this was not a group that had been together much. They came from Sarajevo together on the plane, but there was not much dialogue on the plane, and they began talking in the room. And we are looking for more ways to encourage that dialogue in the future and, more importantly, encourage them to talk about ways that their two communities can implement aspects of the peace agreement which has been a source of some real sensitivity on the part of the Serb community around Sarajevo itself.

Q Was the mayor of Srebrenica invited to the meeting?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. He was not listed in the list of participants. We've got a list, by the way -- they're making copies of it now.

Q How long did this meeting take place?

MR. MCCURRY: They met with National Security Advisor Tony Lake and Ambassador Holbrooke for approximately 40 minutes, and then the President joined them for about 15 minutes at the end of that session. The President -- we had to cut short -- I think those of you know we got hustled out of Tuzla quickly. We had to leave Tuzla rather quickly because the ceiling began to drop and the advice from the tower was that unless we wanted to camp out with the Army in the tents, we'd better move out a little more quickly.

Q Is it possible to say from the meeting whether who is out in front, the leaders or the people out in front in terms of reconciliation -- is it the people leading the leaders, or the leaders leading the people?

MR. MCCURRY: No, these are -- these community leaders have themselves pledged to continue a dialogue aimed at reconciliation. But there's still a great deal of animosity in these communities that date from the horrible tragedies of the war. But the President was encouraged that these leaders seemed committed to some type of dialogue of reconciliation. And he committed the United States to finding ways to encourage that dialogue.

I don't expect -- David Johnson is attending the meeting with President Tudjman. You've got a good idea of the subjects. Obviously, the President, in his public remarks, indicated his central purpose was to thank President Tudjman for his commitment to the Dayton-Paris Accord and for his strong support -- or strong record of compliance to date with the terms of the agreement and encourage that to continue and encourage a peaceful solution to the problem of Eastern Slovonia.

Beyond that, unless there's any further readout that David wants to offer, we'll just let you guys file and try to protect as much filing time as we can.


END 6:55 P.M. (L)