Behind Washington's Shift on Balkan Policy

YUGOSLAV CONFLICT

BY formally announcing its recognition that a unified Yugoslavia no longer exists, the United States is finally changing a Balkans policy that has taken heat from Congress and other critics for months.

In delaying recognition of the breakaway republics of Croatia, Slovenia, and now Bosnia-Herzegovina, the US was not simply shutting its eyes to reality, claim administration officials. They say that premature recognition might have alienated Serbia and endangered the deployment of United Nations peacekeeping troops.

"It was of vital importance to get the UN Security Council to make a decision on the peacekeeping force and to get the peacekeepers moving in before the United States took action with regard to recognition," said a senior administration official at a briefing for reporters.

Officials also said they wanted to recognize the breakaway republics as a group, and that Bosnia-Herzegovina only declared its independence last month.

Critics, however, think the US should have gone along with the European Commission and recognized Croatia and Slovenia in January. Knowing that the whole international community was behind Croatia might have caused Serbia to curb fighting earlier, say critics of US policy.

"They're very, I think, pro-Serbian in this whole thing," complained Sen. Larry Pressler (R) of South Dakota at a press conference Wednesday.

The US has yet to decide whether to go along with the wishes of Serbia and Montenegro, allied republics that want to be called "Yugoslavia" and have the rights of a successor state. The senior US official indicated, however, that there is "clear openness" toward recognizing Macedonia, a fourth former Yugoslav republic that has declared its sovereignty.

The US is holding back on Macedonia because Greece, a NATO ally, has expressed concern that Macedonia might have territorial designs over the Greek territory of the same name.

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