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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 13, 1996
                            TO THE NATION
                          IFOR Headquarters
                           Taszar, Hungary                            

10:06 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I'm speaking to you today from Taszar, Hungary, the main staging base for America's soldiers in Bosnia. I've just visited with our commanders and troops. The American people should be very proud of the job they're doing.

Our Armed Forces are giving the Bosnian people, exhausted by four years of war, the strength to make peace. I wish every American could see firsthand what the men and women of our military are accomplishing under very difficult conditions, both here and in Bosnia.

Here in Taszar, our troops are providing the beans, bullets and black oil that are keeping our people in Bosnia fed, armed and ready to roll. In Tuzla, the headquarters for our troops in Bosnia, the weather report is pretty much the same every day: mud, mud, and more mud. But despite that, and the snow and the freezing rain, in less than a month our soldiers have built a base camp with more than 100 hard-backed tents, complete with wooden floors, heat and lights. They've set up a road network and sophisticated communications. The airfield, which had no lights or navigational equipment when they got there, is up and running 24 hours a day.

Some of the men and women I'm seeing today designed, built and now operate the pontoon bridge over the Sava River, the key landlink to Bosnia for our troops. The biggest Army bridging operation since World War II demanded the kind of strength and ingenuity that only American soldiers have. The river swelled to a record high for this century, washing away our encampments. Its banks became muddy bogs, but the Sava didn't drown America's spirit. As one of our Army engineers put it: We've been crossing rivers for 218 years; we're going to cross this river -- and they did.

Now that most of the preliminary work is done, our soldiers and their partners from more than two dozen other nations, including NATO allies and former adversaries, like Hungary, Poland and Russia, are set to carry out their mission, step by step, steadily, surely and safely. They'll make sure the former warring parties in Bosnia live up to the letter of the peace agreement they signed, and they'll create a secure environment to give the people of Bosnia a chance to rebuild their lives and their land.

Only the people of Bosnia can seize that chance and come together as equal citizens of a shared land with a common destiny. After so many lives lost and futures destroyed, finding the strength to live and work side by side, as they have done for so much of their history, will now be very hard. But I am convinced that the overwhelming majority of Bosnia's people agree that the alternative of return to the sorrow and suffering of the past four years must not be allowed to happen. And they're looking to our soldiers to help them make a new beginning.

So often when people abroad look to America for help and hope, America looks to the men and women of our Armed Forces. Of course, we can't be everywhere, and even they can't do everything. But where we can make a difference and where our interests and our values are clearly at stake, we must step forward. In Bosnia, where those interests and values are very clearly at stake, our soldiers are making a difference -- the difference between a war that resumes and a peace that can take hold.

We've asked the men and women of our military to bear the burden of America's leadership, and they're rising to the challenge with strength, skill and determination. The soldiers I've talked with are proud of their accomplishments and ready for the hard work ahead. I know all the American people are very proud of them, and that all Americans join me in saying Godspeed to the men and women of the world's finest military as they carry out their mission of peace in Bosnia.

Thanks for listening.

END 10:12 A.M. EST