Clinton says U.N. cannot engage in every crisis



UNITED NATIONS (AP)—President Clinton told the United Nations Monday the American people will support sending U.S. troops to keep peace around the world only if new missions are sharply limited. ‘‘The United Nations must know when to say ‘no,’‘’ he declared.

Noting that he is the first president born after creation of the organization, Clinton insisted on new rules for ‘‘new times’‘ as he outlined his foreign policy views with a mixture of caution and high purpose.

Clinton is prepared to send as many as 25,000 American troops to Bosnia if peace terms can be worked out, and he defended keeping 4,700 U.S. peacekeepers in Somalia. But he told the representatives of more than 180 nations that the U.N. must limit its involvement in international fighting, beginning ‘‘by bringing the rigors of military and political analysis to every U.N. peace mission.’‘

He also proposed a network of nuclear arms restraints, including a worldwide ban on stockpiling of weapons-grade uranium. And yet he hinted he might abandon his three-month old ban on underground weapons blasts if China resumed its testing program.

At a news conference later with Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, Clinton said the United States sent peacekeepers to Somalia in December ‘‘with our eyes open’‘ but ‘‘may have underestimated’‘ the difficulty of restoring political stability. ‘‘I still believe President Bush made the right decision,’‘ he said

He also listed conditions for deploying American forces to a NATO peacekeeping unit in Bosnia.

‘‘I would want a clear understanding of what the command and control was and I would want the NATO commander in charge of the operations,’‘ Clinton said. ‘‘I would want a clear timetable for first review and ultimately for the right to terminate American involvement.’‘

Clinton said there would have to be ‘‘a clear political strategy’‘ for the peacekeeping mission, and the deployment would have to be endorsed by Congress.

‘‘We would have to know what our financial responsibilities are,’‘ the president said. ‘‘Then we would have to know that others would do their part as well.’‘

Elaborating on his speech, Clinton said none of the current peacekeeping missions was ‘‘ill founded’‘ but that ‘‘there are limits to what we can do’‘ in the future. ‘‘I want to see us go into these things with our eyes open,’‘ he said.

Clinton, in proposing curbs on mushrooming international peacekeeping ventures—there are now 17 involving 80,000 troops—appeared to be looking for a practical way out of a growing dispute with members of Congress who are questioning American intervention in foreign conflicts.

‘‘The United Nations simply cannot become engaged in every one of the world’s conflicts,’‘ Clinton said.

Still, he said, the U.N. must have ‘‘the technical means to run a modern world-class peacekeeping operation.’‘ And he pledged that the United States intended to ‘‘remain engaged and to lead’‘ in post-Cold War world affairs.

He offered to pay within the next few weeks a $400 million U.S. debt for peacekeeping, but he also said the United States was paying too heavy a load. A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the idea was to scale back from 30.4 percent to 25 percent and have Germany and Japan, among others, make up the difference.

Clinton said the United Nations must ‘‘weed out waste’‘ and he suggested the appointment of an inspector general to investigate any abuses.

The more than 1,000 delegates who listened in the cavernous General Assembly hall gave the speech restrained applause.

During the day, Clinton crossed New York’s First Avenue several times between the U.N. and the U.S. Mission, causing street closures that stretched 14 blocks and tied up traffic.

Inside the U.N., he reminded the delegates that 32 years ago President Kennedy had warned that humanity lived under a nuclear sword of Damocles. ‘‘We have begun to see the doomsday weapon of nuclear annihilation dismantled and destroyed,’‘ Clinton said.

But while lining up with his predecessors in paying homage to the United Nations, Clinton also declared: ‘‘If the American people are to say ‘yes’ to U.N. peacekeeping, the United Nations must know when to say ‘no.’‘’

In Washington, Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas said Clinton’s speech failed to address the increasing gap between U.S. interests and U.N. operations. Specifically, Clinton did not spell out what U.S. interests are in the operation in Somalia, Dole said.

‘‘We must avoid adopting the U.N. agenda whether in Somalia, in Bosnia, in Haiti, or elsewhere when it does not meet our standards and principles,’‘ Dole said in a statement. ‘‘The key to making the world safe for democracies and not for dictators, is not to ‘reinvent’ the United Nations but to assert U.S. leadership in support of U.S. interests.‘’

Clinton, in an extensive section on the problems of children around the world, said 1.5 million had died in wars over the past decade. He said it was ‘‘far more unforgivable that in that same period 40 million children died from diseases completely preventable with simple vaccines or medicine.’‘

Exhorting against government-sponsored terrorism, torture and repression, Clinton said the United States was determined to see suspects brought to justice in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner in which 270 people died in Scotland.

After his address, Clinton met with the leaders of the Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia; Prime Minister Hosokawa of Japan, President Cesar Gaviria of Colombia, Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri of Lebanon and President Joaquin Chissano of Mozambique.