Re-Arming To Begin this Summer
(WASHINGTON, MARCH 1AP) Bosnian generals expecting to get $800 million for military equipment and weapons have begun talking with U.S. companies offering the know-how needed for rearming and restructuring the Bosnian army. Unable under peace agreement terms to buy weapons now, the generals are looking for ways to fuse disparate Muslim and Croat units into an integrated force that could deter any Bosnian Serb threat after international troops depart.
Gen. Rasim Delic, commander in chief of the Muslim-led Bosnian army, and Gen. Zivko Budimir, chief of staff of the Bosnian Croat forces, said Friday their forces also would require significant retraining in order to effectively handle a expected influx of new equipment. The two generals are winding down a seven-day visit to the United States during which they met with Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, White House national security adviser Anthony Lake and other officials from the State Department and Pentagon. They also toured U.S. military bases in Georgia, Kansas and Louisiana.
"Our priority is not only to equip and retrain our army, but to restructure it to use the sophisticated weapons and equipment which we will receive," Budimir told reporters.
The Clinton administration intends to contribute $100 million in equipment and weapons to the joint Muslim-Croat army and will try to raise $700 million more from other countries at a fund-raiser next month in Turkey. According to the peace agreement reached among warring factions in Dayton, Ohio, last November, the Bosnian federation army will be eligible to purchase heavy weapons starting next June.
The agreement provides for earlier training and equipping of the Bosnian army, which was hastily formed from an assortment of militia groups and armed citizens in response to the Bosnian Serbs rebellion in 1992. The Muslim-Croat federation was created in 1994, as part of a U.S.-sponsored effort to end a bitter, yearlong conflict between the two sides. Despite American pressure, the resulting mistrust has delayed the creation of an effective federal authority.
Although the administration has pledged to help arm the nascent federation army, it has declined to allow U.S. military personnel to train Bosnian forces. Instead, the United States has arranged for NATO ally Turkey and U.S. civilian advisers to take the lead in the training program. Delic said that on Friday and Saturday, the last day of the visit, the delegation will meet with representatives of four U.S. companies competing for a contract to oversee the training program. They included Military Professional Resources Inc., a consulting firm staffed by high-ranking retired American generals, and BDM International Inc., he said.
MPRI is credited with helping retrain the Croatian army, which retook a large chunk of its territory from the Croatian Serb insurgents in a lightning strike last summer. BDM is engaged in contract work with Saudi Arabia’s army and air force.
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