Senates Jews unite to end U.S. aid of Bosnian embargo

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate's nine Jewish members have banded together in a vote to end U.S. participation in the U.N. arms embargo on Bosnia.

Surpassing the expected support for the bill, the Senate voted Wednesday of last week 69-29 to approve the measure, which was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.).

Only five Republicans and 24 Democrats voted against the measure, which President Clinton has vowed to veto.

Several Jewish organizations welcomed the move, which comes as fighting has intensified in Bosnia.

Rebel Serbian forces have overtaken two Muslim "safe havens" in the region as Western nations have been meeting to decide a course of action.

Further complicating the matter, a senior adviser to Russian President Boris Yeltsin reportedly warned that if the United States unilaterally lifts the arms embargo, Russia would consider doing the same for Serbia.

In a statement released minutes after Wednesday afternoon's vote, the leaders of the American Jewish Congress declared, "We applaud the broad bipartisan recognition that United States policy on Bosnia has been a stunning and tragic failure, and one of historic magnitude."

In a speech shortly before the midday vote, Dole thanked the AJCongress for its previous letter supporting the initiative.

The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council "hopes this will lead to action that will begin to bring this tragedy to an end," said Martin Raffel, the umbrella group's associate executive vice chairman.

B'nai B'rith International also immediately welcomed the vote.

At least one Jewish group, however, opposed the Senate action. The American Jewish Committee said it opposed a unilateral move by the United States.

"This could have serious ramifications for lifting other sanctions, including those against Iraq and Libya," said Jason Isaacson, director of the AJCommittee's Washington office.

"This move could be a prescription for a bloodbath," Isaacson said, predicting that Bosnian Muslims would likely be overrun by Bosnian Serbs before any arms could be delivered.

The overwhelming opposition to the ban has thrown the White House's Bosnia policy into disarray. The Senate has enough votes to override a presidential veto of the legislation.

Administration officials lobbied in vain to keep Democratic senators from supporting the measure.

The House, meanwhile, voted 298-128 Tuesday for the United States to defy the embargo. That tally exceeded the two-thirds majority needed to override a Clinton veto.