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Jewish Groups Express Impatience with Slow U.S. Response on Bosnia

The organized Jewish community, which has been pushing the United States to take tougher measures to halt atrocities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, is becoming increasingly frustrated with the Clinton administration’s seeming inability to decide on a course of action.

Convinced that only stronger U.S. action will stop the killings and “ethnic cleansing” campaign in the former Yugoslav republic, Jewish leaders have continued to press their opinions in meetings with high-level administration officials.

Last week, executives of the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress and Anti-Defamation League discussed the situation with Deputy National Security Adviser Samuel Berger.

For months now, Jewish groups have been encouraging the United States to help alleviate the plight of the Bosnians. The Jewish community has expressed special concern about the “ethnic cleansing” practiced against Bosnian Moslems mainly by Bosnian Serbs, which, for some, stirs up memories of the Nazi Holocaust.

Among the steps urged by Jewish groups in recent months have been the lifting of the arms embargo against the Bosnian Moslems and military action, if necessary, to stop the killings.

One leader who attended the meeting with Berger, AJCongress Executive Vice President Henry Siegman, expressed impatience with the administration.

Speaking for himself, and not for his organization, Siegman said he felt a “deep sense of disappointment and disillusionment. It does not seem that this administration is at all clear about what it intends to do,” he said.

‘WE CAN’T SIMPLY BE SITTING BY’

By being “indecisive,” Siegman said, the administration is signaling to the Serbs that “they can really continue with the genocide and ethnic cleansing with absolute impunity,” and that nobody in the United States or Europe will “lift a finger to stop them on this bloody road.”

ADL National Chair Mel Salberg and AJCommittee President Alfred Moses, the other participants in the Berger meeting, were less critical, saying they understood the complications facing the administration, in dealing with often-reluctant European allies, for example.

But both leaders also said they saw a need for forceful American action on the Bosnia issue.

“There is no other leader in the world than the United States in dealing with issues like Bosnia,” said Salberg.

“The situation is one that, despite the obvious difficulties and uncertainties as to the outcome, we can’t simply be sitting by, seeing whole communities decimated,” Moses said.

Meanwhile, a group of religious leaders from the former Yugoslavia held a news conference here Tuesday to bring attention to the conditions in their homeland.

Spearheaded by Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the ecumenical Appeal of Conscience Foundation, the news conference included representatives of the Jewish, Catholic, Moslem and Serbian Orthodox communities of the former Yugoslavia.

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