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U.S. troops to leave Bosnia by year's end

U.S. troops will be out of Bosnia by the end of the year, and there are no plans to participate in a peacekeeping force that may stay beyond that time, Vice President Al Gore said Sunday.

"Yes, we believe their mission will be completed by the end of this year," Gore said on CBS' Face the Nation.

"There is no successor force at this point," he said. Asked if the United States might join such a force, he said: "That is hypothetical, we are not anticipating any such thing. We believe that the mission will be completed."

NATO defense ministers plan to meet in Bergen, Norway, in September to discuss the makeup of a smaller force that might remain in Bosnia after the current mission ends in December.

Defense Secretary William Perry said last month that he would support U.S. participation in that force.

Americans make up about 20,000 of the 60,000 NATO troops on the ground in Bosnia. President Clinton, facing heavy opposition in Congress to his decision last year to commit troops to Bosnia, pledged that they would be out in about a year.

Gore also praised the agreement, worked out by U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke last week, under which Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic pledged to permanently withdraw from political activities.

"That's not enough, but it is a step in the right direction and helps keep us on the road to the election" planned for September in Bosnia.

U.S. Adm. Leighton Smith pledged Sunday that the 50,000 troops he commands in the NATO-led peace force would do their utmost to ensure nothing blocks the Sept. 14 balloting. But he warned that the prevailing climate of "hate, suspicion, fear," may trigger violence in the election campaign.

The campaign officially opened Friday, after Karadzic resigned as leader of the Serbs' main party.