(To show commitment at highest levels) (800)

By Russ Dybvik and Robert Fullerton

USIA Staff Writers

Washington -- In a move aimed to show "public commitment at the highest

levels" to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Secretary of State

Christopher will host a ceremony March 16 formally commemorating the first

anniversary of the Washington Accords which established the federation.

The ceremony will mark the inaugural session of the "Friends of the

Federation," an informal support group of nations led by the United States

and the European Union, and also will serve as a six-month review of the

Federation Accords, acting spokesman David Johnson said at the State

Department's March 15 briefing.  Richard Holbrooke, assistant secretary of

state for European and Canadian affairs, will chair that session.

The federation will be represented by President Kresimir Zubak.  President

Franjo Tudjman will lead a group of Croatian representatives and the

Bosnian Republic will be represented by Ejup Ganic, a member of the

collective presidency and vice president of the federation, and Tatjana

Ljujic-Mijatovic, a member of the collective presidency representing the

Serb community.

The United States hopes the events, including the founding of the "Friends

of the Federation," will start a process which "will put us on a track to

further establishing an entity in Bosnia that can support what we hope will

eventually be an end to the conflict there and begin to foster a process of

peace," the acting spokesman said.

"In concert with that, we're pursuing at the U.N. the adoption of a

resolution which will permit the installation of a force in Croatia which

will help, we hope, avoid the further outbreak of hostilities," he said.

There is the possibility that a few U.S. individual soldiers will have a

communications role in that new force, but they would be only associated

with NATO's potential plans to assist in withdrawal of UNPROFOR, should

that become necessary," he explained.


Johnson said the United States is "quite gratified" that it was possible to

come up with an agreement which Tudjman could support that will deal with

the issue of an international presence in Croatia after March 31.  "We have

made a good start on solving this...but there are other areas that are

crying out for attention as well," he said, referring to the need for a

settlement of the conflict in Bosnia.

A senior State Department official later described the purpose of the

upcoming ceremony as threefold: at the political- strategic level "to put

new energy and new momentum into the federation by public commitment at the

highest levels, with the secretary of state leading the effort to make the

federation more viable;" at the assistance level, the "Friends of the

Federation," to get more money earmarked for projects to strengthen the

federation; and finally, "to actually get down in our private sessions

tomorrow to discussing some of the root problems on the ground."

The March 16 ceremony, the official stressed, is "not just for show.  All of

you...know that if we neglect the federation everything else in turn will

fall apart.  Its success is a prior condition to dealing with the other

problems we're facing there."

Regarding the agreement reached with Tudjman, the official said it resolved

a crisis facing the United States that was as "serious a threat to peace

and stability in Europe as we have seen not only since the end of the Cold

War, but in my view, a much longer period of time."

The agreement, signed in the presence of Vice President Gore, he said, "in

our view averted an almost certain war in Krajina which would certainly

have led back to war in Bosnia, and perhaps brought Milosevic back into the

war with Serb forces from Serbia itself."

Asked if Tudjman might have been bluffing about his threat to eject U.N.

troops in Croatia, the U.S. official said "if he was bluffing, we didn't

think so....He had a legitimate grievance."

Intelligence reports, he added, confirmed that Croatian troops were

preparing to punish Krajina Serbs who "were ethnically cleansing Croatians,

hundreds of thousands of refugees.  He (Tudjman) had repeatedly said he

could not stand for this.  He had to retake his land by force if

necessary....We could not afford to risk (that) he was bluffing."

Asked if the move to bolster the federation might be viewed as a threat by

the Serbs and perhaps nudge them back into fighting, the U.S. official made

plain that "if the federation doesn't hold together, it's all over for the

Bosnians and the Croatians in Bosnia."

"The only way to deal with the Serbs," he declared, "is to show solidarity

and opposition to their behavior."