NATO’s Supreme Headquarters in Europe (SHAPE) welcomed President Clinton’s announcement last week that U.S. troops would stay in Bosnia beyond the June 30 deadline set for their withdrawal, according to SHAPE spokesman German Army Lieutenant Colonel Gunther Forsteneichner.

Lt. Col. Forsteneichner was apprehensive about the U.S. commitment to staying on in Bosnia past the deadline when he visited Atlanta earlier in December on a public information effort which included presentations at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and civic and educational groups.

Back in his office in Mons, Belgium, last week, he said in a telephone interview that while the U.S. presence was not absolutely essential for a successful resolution for the NATO mission, it would be more difficult to achieve the objectives of the agreements reached in Dayton, Ohio, without its presence.  Some 8,000 U.S. troops are serving there with about 22,000 others drawn from NATO allies, Russia and other countries.

He added that the Dayton accords involve not only peacekeeping but the reconstruction of Bosnia’s economy and that U.S. companies should become more involved in projects that will be available in the war-torn region.  A $17 million loan by the World Bank for Bosnia’s reconstruction was expected to be approved on Tuesday, Dec. 23.

Joint venture opportunities with Bosnian companies, he said, would involve telecommunications and public transportation sectors.  He also cited other opportunities such as rebuilding Bosnia’s manufacturing base as well as establishing assembly plants for exports.

Call Lt. Col. Forsteneichner at +32 (0) 65-44 48 32; fax, +32 (0) 65- 44 35 44.