November 17, 1995
Web posted at: 10 p.m. EST (0300 GMT)
From CNN State Department Correspondent Steve Hurst, Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre and White House Correspondent Claire Shipman
DAYTON, Ohio (CNN) -- Three senior administration officials said that the United States is hopeful that peace agreement can be initialed by Balkan leaders Sunday or Monday in Dayton.
A State Department source said there still is a danger the talks may fail, but the chance was seen as "slight."
News that the 17-day talks at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base were approaching a successful end came amidst a flurry of activity by key administration officials, including a secret visit to the air base Thursday by Tony Lake, the national security adviser.
No final decision has been made on whether President Clinton will travel to Dayton for the event.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher cut short his visit to the Pacific Rim conference in Osaka, Japan, to be on hand Friday night and to engage in intense end-game negotiations Saturday and Sunday. (State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns-- 170K AIFF sound or 170K WAV sound)
He will tell the negotiating Balkan leaders on Saturday that the United States now insists they either strike a deal by overcoming differences over the map, territorial divisions and Sarajevo, or admit that they cannot agree and go home.
Defense Secretary William Perry and the commander of NATO, Gen. George Joulwan, were already in Dayton. Perry arrived in Dayton well ahead of Christopher. A senior defense official said Perry was "not there to close the deal; that's Warren Christopher's job."
White House press secretary Mike McCurry said Friday morning that the most difficult issues were now before the parties. "That means it is at its most delicate moment. In terms of our own mediating role, some of these issues are contentious; (it's) not clear they can be resolved."
The Pentagon said Perry and Joulwan will meet with the U.S. team working to achieve a peace agreement in Bosnia. Perry "wants to review the progress in the talks so that he can provide first-hand advice to the president and Congress on the U.S. role in implementing the peace accord, if one is reached," a Pentagon spokesman said.
A source told CNN the United States and France are squabbling over where any formal signing of a peace accord would take place. The administration is said to be itself divided over whether that should happen at a planned Paris peace conference, or whether it should be in Washington, given the United States' central role in the negotiations.
If a deal is reached, it will put a international affairs feather in the Clinton administration bonnet. But how well it would play out may depend on the outcome of a fight in Congress over the dispatch of U.S. troops to implement the peace.
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