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Clinton avoids Congress to back Bosnia mission

President Clinton has decided to use $50-million to $60-million in existing Pentagon funds to help support a European rapid-reaction force for Bosnia.

Republicans denounced the policy Thursday and called for a complete cutoff in American financing of what they described as the "hopelessly incompetent" U.N. peacekeeping operation.

In a letter to Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and House Speaker Newt Gingrich also attacked the administration's decision to provide close air support for the 12,500-strong force. They said they were "extremely disturbed" by the possibility that U.S. personnel would be exposed to "greater risks than are necessary."

Dole and Gingrich said the move "to circumvent the will of Congress is likely to lead to restriction" of the administration's budgetary flexibility in the future.

State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the administration felt compelled to help its European allies to strengthen the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia, even though the precise mission of the rapid-reaction force had not been defined. "We cannot leave our NATO allies in the lurch."