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Federation Leaders Shore Up Alliance in Bonn Meeting
'The international community cannot and
will not release you from your duty...'

BONN, April 25 (Reuters) - Leaders of Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation met in Bonn on Thursday to seek ways of strengthening their shaky alliance. The meeting, hosted by German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, was expected to focus on reconstruction projects and forming a common police force, diplomatic sources said. The talks had originally been scheduled for March 29 but were postponed at the last minute because neither side was willing to make concessions. But a pact subsequently signed in Sarajevo on March 30 helped pave the way for the Bonn meeting.

"By signing this agreement you showed courage and vision," Kinkel told participants as the talks got under way. He praised both sides for making progress on integration, but said too many subjects were still disputed. "I tell you openly: the international community cannot and will not release you from your duty," he added. "We expect more from you than the personal commitment with which you sign agreements. We have to expect that you will convince others of the value of your actions."

The federation, forged out of necessity to confront Bosnian Serb might, has unravelled amid recrimination and disputes over organizational details since Bosnia's three and a half year conflict ended in November. But under huge international pressure to fulfil the terms of the Dayton peace accord, Muslim and Croat politicians struck last month's deal taking the brittle two-year-old Bosnian Federation from the brink of collapse.

The Bonn meeting aims to help build a functioning government and democratic institutions in the federation ahead of national elections scheduled for September. Diplomats say negotiations still have a long way to go. The federation still lacks a common currency, budget and banking regulations as well as a proper army. But Kinkel said a joint customs and tax system now seemed within reach and praised the federation's efforts to promote the free movement of refugees, a key sticking point between the sides that once fought bitterly in 1993.

Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic and Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic were taking part as well as Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic and Bosnian Foreign Minister Jandanko Prlic. In a bilateral meeting with Granic, Kinkel hailed Zagreb's efforts to settle the East Slavonia issue, to work with the U.N. war crimes tribunal, and to admit a long-term mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. These were "important signals" that would help ease Croatia's admission to the Council of Europe, a Bonn foreign ministry statement said.

Additional resources
Apr 23 · Bosnian Federation to Hold Key Meeting in Bonn on Thursday

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