August 19, 1995
From Correspondent Christiane Amanpour
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA (CNN) -- A peace mission in Bosnia- Herzegovina has proven fatal for three U.S. diplomats and a French U.N. soldier. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Frasure was killed when his armored vehicle plunged down a ravine. Earlier reports said that the vehicle had hit two land mines but that has been proven not to be the case.
The other Americans killed were Joseph Kruzel and Nelson Drew. Two other U.S. officials and two French U.N. soldiers were hurt. The head of the delegation, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, was traveling in a second vehicle and escaped injury.
President Clinton offered the families of the three U.S. diplomats his gratitude and condolences. Speaking from his vacation spot in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Mr. Clinton said, "These were immensely talented, patriotic Americans who were profoundly concerned with what the war in Bosnia has done to the people there and what it means for the values of decency and freedom and peace... I would think that the thing they would want us most to do is to press ahead and that is what we intend to do."
State Department spokesman David Johnson says that the deaths of the three men will greatly hamper negotiations in the Balkans. In a written statement, Secretary of State Warren Christopher said: "I am shocked and saddened by the tragic death of my colleague and friend Ambassador Robert Frasure and two other dedicated American officials. The peace plan that our delegation was pursuing this last week drew heavily on the wisdom and experience of Bob Frasure who helped shape it's elements and gave all his energy toward fulfilling its promise."
Ivan Misic, Bosnian Charge D'Affaires, said that Frasure was respected and was considered a responsible diplomat and had made solid contacts on all sides of negotiations. He went on to say that Frasure's death had come as a great shock.
The officials were traveling a notoriously dangerous road near Sarajevo and were headed for talks with Bosnia's president on a new U.S. peace initiative.
Ambulances ferried the wounded to hospital in Sarajevo. The accident happened on the dangerous route over Mt. Igman to the Bosnian capital. The diplomats were traveling in a convoy of U.N. armored personnel carriers. U.N. officials say one vehicle slid off the muddy road into a ravine and caught fire.
"There are engineers working on that road and this is already a treacherous mountain road," said U.N. spokesman Alexander Ivanko. "It has been raining for three days now and the road must be in very bad condition."
They were taking that mountain route because for months it has been the only way into Sarajevo, bypassing the Bosnian Serbs, since they have shut down the airport and blocked regular road access through their territory.
Twisting and turning all the way into the city, the greater danger on Mt. Igman comes from Bosnian Serb guns and mortars that can and do target traffic.
Charred wreckage and many dead testify to that. But there have also been many road accidents since the U.N. diplomats and other civilians have been forced to travel this way.
Robert Frasure was the U.S. representative to the five-nation contact group. For months, he and his staff tried to get Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic to recognize Bosnia in return for easing sanctions on Belgrade.
His latest Balkan peace tour, headed by undersecretary of state Richard Holbrooke, was aimed at seizing the initiative as the military momentum appeared to be swinging away from the Serbs.
The U.S. delegation was shuttling between Croatia and Serbia where the initiative was welcome, and the diplomats were about to present their plan to the Bosnians in Sarajevo.
Unlike many mediators, Robert Frasure never raised expectations for this elusive Balkan peace. U.S. efforts will continue, but individuals make a difference. Those who knew him well call Frasure the consummate diplomat, among the best and brightest the foreign service had to offer.
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