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Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters on Bosnia

February 20, 1994

The President. I talked this morning with Secretary Perry and General Shali and General Joulwan and Admiral Boorda in Europe. There is a lot of activity on the ground. The Serbs seem to be moving weapons and also bringing the U.N. forces to the weapons that cannot be moved. So that much is encouraging. But we are monitoring this as the day goes on. The deadline will stand, and I expect to get further reports throughout the day and to talk to Manfred Woerner later in the day after we see what happens.

Q. There seems to be some flexibility on this deadline. I mean, is it exactly at 7 p.m. our time, even if they found out they couldn't move certain weapons?

The President. The deadline only makes the artillery positions subject to attack, and I think that we should keep the deadline and we should keep working at it. There may or may not be some questions about whether all those weapons can be put into U.N. control, depending as much as anything else on the weather there. And we're just monitoring it.

Right now the report I got just before I came to church here was encouraging, directly from Secretary Perry and the military command we have there. But we're just going to have to wait and see what happens as the day unfolds.

Q. Are you hopeful, Mr. President, that you won't have to bomb?

The President. Well, I'm hopeful because of what I see happening. But basically, we have the procedures in place now, and as I said yesterday—I want to say again—what happens after 7 p.m. tonight will be determined by the facts on the ground. We have already authorized, I and the other leaders in the NATO coalition, we have already authorized our military commanders, working with the U.N., to draw their own conclusions and take appropriate actions. So the mechanisms are in place. This will be determined, as I said yesterday, entirely by what happens on the ground. We'll just have to see.

Q. Does the United Nations still have to authorize the first strike?

The President. Yes, the United Nations would have to approve the first strike. And right now, as I said, the activities on the ground seem encouraging. We'll just have to see. But there are still, plainly, weapons that are not yet under U.N. control, and they're not yet beyond the 20-kilometer safe zone. So we'll just have to see.

Q. Are you going to talk to Yeltsin before you——

Q. Are you going to talk to President Yeltsin?

The President. Well, we are in touch, close touch with the Russians, and I may well talk to him before any final determination is made. But that decision has not been made yet, and partly it's a function of the huge time difference, you know, between Washington and Moscow and what time it will be there by the time we know something. But we are keeping in close touch with the Russians, and I may well talk to President Yeltsin within the next 24 hours.

Q. What are you going to do all day?

The President. I don't know yet. I'm going to go take my family to lunch right now. It's a nice day, and I'm just going to be——

Q. Where are you going?

The President. We'll probably go back to the house and eat. But I'm going to be where I can get some reports.

Thank you.

NOTE: The exchange began at 12:51 p.m. outside Christ Episcopal Church. During the exchange, the President referred to Secretary of Defense William J. Perry; Gen. John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. George A. Joulwan, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; Adm. J.M. Boorda, commander in chief, U.S. Naval Forces in Europe; and NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

William J. Clinton, Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters on Bosnia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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