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Clinton Starts Balkan Tour With Plea For Peace, Reforms

October 12, 2010

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has begun a two-day Balkan tour, calling on Bosnia-Herzegovina to overcome ethnic divisions and embrace political reforms "or risk being left behind" for European Union and NATO integration.

Clinton was addressing an audience of several hundred university students in Sarajevo, the first leg of her tour aimed at underscoring U.S. commitments to regional peace and increased Euro-Atlantic integration for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Kosovo.

"Bosnia-Herzegovina together is much stronger, more able, and more likely to move toward an integrated European future than if it is coming apart. So we do not support and do not believe anyone should support any talk of separation," Clinton said.

Clinton said her message for the three countries was the same: "Now is the time to strengthen democratic institutions, deepen peace between neighbors, and create the conditions for long-term political, economic, and social progress." She added that there was "no better way to achieve sustained economic growth and long-term political stability than by integrating with Europe."

Clinton spoke at Bosnia's historic National Theater, to which she walked from the headquarters of the country's tripartite presidency, where she said she had encouraged the country's leadership to come together for the sake of the country's prosperity.

"You have come too far, you have too much to lose if you cannot overcome these differences. I just met with the tri-presidency, and we discussed very frankly these kinds of remaining challenges," Clinton said.

The talks followed October 4 elections to the three-member presidency, shared by a Serb, a Croat, and a Muslim, which exposed the country's continuing ethnic divisions 15 years after the end of the civil war.

The vote resulted in victories for moderate Bosniak and Croatian leaders Bakir Izetbegovic and Zeljko Komsic, while Nebojsa Radmanovic, who backs Bosnian Serb separation from the country, also won.

Ahead of Clinton's trip, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon said it was "fair" to say that the political process is stalled in Bosnia because of ethnic rivalries.

From Sarajevo, Clinton is scheduled to travel to Belgrade for talks with Serbia’s leaders about the Kosovo dispute, before concluding her tour with a visit to the former Serbian province on October 13.

based on RFE/RL and agency reports

Source: Balkan_Tour_Urging_Peace_Reforms/2188313.html

Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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