Don't Count on Them Being Home For Christmas

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SCOPJE, Macedonia: Coming to terms with the painfully-slow progress of peace in Bosnia, the Clinton Administration now concedes that U.S. troops may have to remain there beyond the December 20 deadline originally established for their departure. Making the announcement during a five-day trip to Europe, Defense Secretary William Perry said that if NATO extends its peacekeeping commitment in Bosnia, he would recommend that the U.S. support the decision. TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson reports: "The Balkans have been a cauldron of religious hatred and intolerance for centuries. It's silly to think that all these wounds can be eased in 12 months. The tensions over there are such that if U.S. troops withdraw, then war could break out again." Some 20,000 U.S. troops have been stationed in Bosnia along with 40,000 other NATO troops in an effort to separate the warring factions and facilitate the formation of a new federation of Bosnian Muslims and Croats. But unless NATO can arm and train the two groups, the Serbs are likely to prevail with their considerable military arsenal. Plans to supply $800 million worth of military training and supplies are in the works, but have been delayed. Thompson doubts that keeping U.S. troops in Bosnia will reflect badly on Clinton, as long as there are few casualties. Though the notion of American troops at risk overseas would normally be a great liability in a presidential election year, the issue is less explosive since Bob Dole's Bosnia position has not diverged sharply from Clinton's. Jenifer Mattos