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Izetbegovic Appeals for Islamic Aid
SARAJEVO, April 10 (Reuters) — Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic appealed for post-war aid to rebuild and rearm his country at a meeting of Islamic ministers in Sarajevo on Wednesday. Izetbegovic told the ministers in a speech the reconstruction of Bosnia will be impossible without assistance from Islamic countries, staunch allies of the Muslim-led government throughout the 3½-year conflict. "We need your help," Izetbegovic told envoys from 16 Islamic countries.

"The help that we expect from Islamic countries in equipping of the army and economic reconstruction of our country will be definitely one of the strongest factors in strengthening and building of a stable peace in this part of the world," he added. Bosnia hosted a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) two days before a scheduled aid conference in Brussels on Friday in which international donors will be asked to contribute another $1.2 billion to help finance post-war reconstruction.

Hopes for Substantial Aid, Military Balance
The international community's High Representative to Bosnia, Carl Bildt, told reporters he hoped the meeting of Islamic ministers would produce a pledge for a "substantial amount" of financial aid which would set the tone for the Brussels conference beginning on Friday. Bildt received pledges for reconstruction aid from Japan and Malaysia in a brief tour of Asia over the past few days.

Hamid Algabid, secretary general of the OIC, pledged in a statement on Wednesday that Islamic countries would assist with economic and military aid for Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation but mentioned no specific figure. During 43 months of war in the former Yugoslav republic, Islamic countries provided military assistance to the Muslim-led government, which was hamstrung by an international arms embargo that gave the heavily armed Serbs the upper hand throughout much of the conflict.

Izetbegovic said aid to the Bosnian army would ensure a "military balance" in the region and prevent a return to war. "One of the decisive factors for a stable peace in the future in Bosnia-Herzegovina is equipping of not a big but a well-trained army," Izetbegovic said. "We expect a part of the help in this important task to come from the Islamic countries."



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