(TOKYO, April 8Reuters) The international community's High Representative to Bosnia gave the go-ahead on Monday for a conference on Bosnian reconstruction but left open the possible exclusion of Bosnian Serbs for failing to free prisoners of war. Carl Bildt told a news conference that although the Bosnian Serbs had made significant progress in releasing prisoners of war, he was not ready to make a firm decision on their participation in the conference next weekend in Brussels.
"I can now give the green light for the Donors Pledging Conference in Brussels on 12-13 April,'' Bildt said. Bildt said he would make a decision on Bosnia Serb participation by Wednesday, after he had returned to Sarajevo and assessed progress in releasing prisoners. Organizers of the donors' conference had threatened to cancel the meeting unless the remaining Bosnian prisoners of war held by the three warring factionsMuslims, Croats and Serbs were released.
Latest Prison Tally
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, 28 prisoners of war were held by the Bosnian Muslims, 44 by the Croats and 16 by the Serbs. Bosnia's mainly Muslim central government freed 18 Serbs late on Friday while its partners, the Bosnian Croats, freed 28 prisoners of war. But the Bosnian Serbs have so far failed to respond by releasing their detainees.
"We have seen over the past fortnight, with the question of prisoner release, just how important external pressure can be," said Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister. "It was only by threatening to postpone this week's donors' conference that we have been able at last to force the parties into compliance (on prisoner releases) with the undertaking they had made in their peace agreementthough there is still a question mark over the Bosnian Serbs." Exclusion from the conference could cost the Bosnian Serbs millions of dollars in reconstruction funding.
Questions Bosnian Community Cooperation
"The question is not whether there is a danger of partition, but whether the communities in Bosnia can come out of their self-imposed isolation to work together as they did in the past," Bildt said. The conference in Brussels will aim to raise $1.2 billion in pledges for Bosnia this year to add to $600 million obtained last year. "We need another $1.2 billion. That is our target at the meeting this week. We are certainly not there yet," he said.
He said he was in Tokyo to urge the Japanese government to make a substantial financial commitment to the reconstruciton of Bosnia. "I very much look forward to her (Japan) playing a full part in the donor conference..." he said.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Database
International Committee of the Red Cross
Red Cross Operations in Western and Central Europe and the Balkans
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