Senate’s Vote on Bosnian Arms Embargo Enrages Activist Jewish Organizations

Jewish groups that have pushed for the lifting of the United Nations arms embargo against Bosnia expressed outrage over the Senate’s failure last Friday to pass an amendment calling for an end to the embargo.

“The Senators who voted today to maintain the U.S. arms embargo against the Bosnian Muslims have tragically chosen to uphold President Clinton’s bankrupt Bosnia policy,” American Jewish Congress President David Kahn said.

“Rather than striking out against the callous strategy of denying the Bosnian Muslims the right to defend themselves, the Senate has voted to uphold the illegal and invalid arms embargo,” he said.

The amendment calling for a unilateral lifting of the embargo by the United States, which was co-sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Bob Dole (R-Kan.), was defeated by a 50-50 vote.

According to Senate rules, Vice President Al Gore did not have to vote, thereby ensuring the tie meant a defeat for the measure.

The Clinton administration had launched a massive campaign last week to persuade senators from voting for the measure.

While the Lieberman-Dole amendment failed, a measure introduced by Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga) and John Warner (R-Va.), passed by a vote of 52-48.

SCENARIOS FOR ENDING THE EMBARGO

The Nunn-Warner amendment called for the United States to “work with the NATO member nations and the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council” to bring about a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Bosnia.

That amendment allows for three possible situations where the Bosnia arms embargo could be lifted.

As part of a comprehensive peace settlement, the embargo should be lifted to allow the Bosnian government the “inherent right of a sovereign state to self-defense,” the amendment said.

A partial lifting of the arms embargo should be implemented if the Bosnian Serbs attack “safe areas” while the peace proposal is being considered, according to the amendment.

In the amendment’s third scenario, if the Serbs “do not respond constructively to the peace negotiations” and the U.N. Security Council fails to pass a resolution terminating the arms embargo on Bosnia, the president, with the consultation of Congress, will decide if the embargo should be unilaterally terminated by the United States.

George Spectre, associate director of international governmental and Israel affairs for B’nai B’rith International, said that the Senate vote does not reflect the will of the American people, who have indicated in polls that they believe the Muslims must have arms to defend themselves against Serbian aggression.

American Jewish Committee’s director of European affairs, Andrew Baker, said his group was “disappointed” with the Senate vote.

“It is important to send a clear message from Washington that our country is prepared to intervene here, to take a more active and direct role,” Baker said.

He said that last month’s 244-178 vote in the House of Representatives to unilaterally lift the embargo “sends a message that there is support in the U.S.” for a lifting of the embargo.

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