CNN Balkan Conflict News

Peace plan poses major test for NATO

NATO tank Patricia Kelley

November 21, 1995
Web posted at: 9:30 a.m. EST (1430 GMT)

From International Correspondent Patricia Kelley

BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- NATO says it's ready to deploy troops to implement the Bosnian peace agreement reached Tuesday in the United States. But behind the scenes, the alliance has a few issues to resolve before it will truly be ready.

NATO will need a United Nations Security Council resolution before its troops can take over from U.N. blue helmets in Bosnia. The Dayton peace deal reached Tuesday also has to be transformed into a treaty before troops are deployed.

If the peace agreement proceeds as planned, it would be the first time in NATO history the alliance deployed ground forces outside its own borders.

Hans van Mierlo

"[It would be] more or less disastrous if the Americans at the last moment sneak away."

-- Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo

Military planning for a NATO-led peace implementation force in Bosnia is almost complete. "Here at NATO we have to finalize our preparations and approve the operational plan," said NATO spokesman Jamie Shea. "So the implementation force will not be deployed tomorrow, but our aim is to be ready as soon as the peace plan has been formally accepted." (216K AIFF sound or 216K WAV sound)

Allies question U.S. role

A key question for NATO's European allies is whether the United States will provide the ground troops President Clinton has promised. The U.S. Navy and Air Force have played a major role in NATO operations in Bosnia so far, but with opposition to a U.S. deployment mounting at home, their future role is uncertain.

"There will be no peace implementation force if the United States is not part of it," said British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind. (40K AIFF sound or 40K WAV sound) "Fundamental to the understandings reached so far is that there will be a large American contribution, along with contributions from European and other countries. I've not the slightest doubt that the United States' contribution is crucial to the success of the operation."

NATO looking for a new leader

As NATO gets closer to mounting the biggest joint military operation in its 46-year history, the alliance finds itself without a secretary-general. There's been no one at the top for more than a month since the Willy Claes was forced to resign after only a year in office.

The two men being considered for the job are Denmark's Uffe Ellemann-Jensen and Spain's Javier Solana.

Ellemann-Jensen is well known to the United States from his days as Denmark's foreign minister during the Bush administration. His supporters feel he's capable of uniting Republicans and Democrats over the question of U.S. troop deployment.

Jamie Shea

Said NATO spokesman Shea, "I'm fully confident that within the next few days ... there will be an announcement that a candidate has been invited to lead the alliance."

But the French have so far refused to endorse Ellemann-Jensen for the job. The Greeks also oppose him. For them, a compromise would be Spanish Foreign Minister Javier Solana. He is said to have good personal relations with U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and President Clinton. But the Spanish government has yet to formally put his name forward.

"We are waiting to see if there is a consensus on Mr. Solana, and then we'll respond sensibly," said Spanish Foreign Minister Felipe Gonzalez.

Javier Solana

Solana himself is being coy about whether he wants the job. "Why don't we wait until tomorrow," he said, when asked if he was interested. "Don't make me say what I'm not going to say."

Ellemann-Jensen says he will drop out to avoid serious division between allies, but only if they can agree on someone else.

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