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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 17, 1996


Final Approval of New Stabilization Force in Bosnia

I have formally approved NATO's new operation plan for the Stabilization Force (SFOR) that will succeed the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia after December 20. I welcome NATO's decision yesterday to approve formally the new operation plan and today to approve the Activation Order that will authorize the start of SFOR's mission.

SFOR's limited and focused mission is to consolidate the peace that IFOR successfully established and maintained. During the past 12 months, IFOR separated and ensured the demobilization of former warring factions. It provided the secure conditions in which democratic elections could be held and the reconstruction of Bosnia's shattered economy could begin. IFOR succeeded in bringing an end to a war that threatened stability in Europe. Now, by preventing the parties from sliding back into armed conflict and providing more breathing space for political and economic efforts to take hold, SFOR will help Bosnians assume full responsibility for their future -- a future without an outside military presence.

As the leader of NATO and the principal architect of the Dayton peace, the United States must continue to lead in this new mission to consolidate the peace in Bosnia. At the same time, our European allies are sharing the responsibility for building long-term stability. The European Union is the leading donor to the economic reconstruction effort and shoulders the burden of helping Bosnia's refugees. Europe will also contribute a greater share of the troops for SFOR than it did for IFOR, with the U.S. providing less than half of what we provided for IFOR.

SFOR's mission will last 18 months. Every six months we will review and consult with Congress on whether stability can be maintained with fewer forces. By helping the Bosnian people build a peace that is self-sustaining, SFOR will also help advance our fundamental goal of building a Europe that is peaceful, undivided and democratic.

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