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Bosnia and Herzegovina's declaration of sovereignty in October 1991, was followed by a referendum for independence from the former Yugoslavia in February 1992. The Bosnian Serbs - supported by neighboring Serbia - responded with armed resistance aimed at partitioning the republic along ethnic lines and joining Serb-held areas to form a "greater Serbia." In March 1994, Bosniaks and Croats reduced the number of warring factions from three to two by signing an agreement creating a joint Bosniak/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 21 November 1995, in Dayton, Ohio, the warring parties signed a peace agreement that brought to a halt the three years of interethnic civil strife (the final agreement was signed in Paris on 14 December 1995). The Dayton Agreement retained Bosnia and Herzegovina's international boundaries and created a joint multi-ethnic and democratic government. This national government is charged with conducting foreign, economic, and fiscal policy. Also recognized was a second tier of government comprised of two entities roughly equal in size: the Bosniak/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska (RS). The Federation and RS governments are charged with overseeing internal functions. In 1995-96, a NATO-led international peacekeeping force (IFOR) of 60,000 troops served in Bosnia to implement and monitor the military aspects of the agreement. IFOR was succeeded by a smaller, NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) whose mission is to deter renewed hostilities. SFOR remains in place at a level of approximately 21,000 troops. 

Update No: 073 - (27/05/03)

Offices in Banja Luka, the Serb Republic's administrative centre were raided by NATO-led peacekeepers recently. Evidence was found that the Serb military was spying on peacekeepers, EU police and the office of Paddy Ashdown, who is Bosnia's top international official, The International High Representative. 
The spying was exposed shortly after peacekeepers learned that a Bosnian Serb aviation firm violated a UN embargo by illegally selling equipment to Iraq. Scandals caused the Serb member of Bosnia's multiethnic rotating presidency, Mirko Sarovic, to resign recently. "I will not allow such scandals again," the Serb defence minister stated following a meeting with top military officials. "Within two months, this office must be restructured and by the end of the year the entire service must be reformed." He supports placing the military intelligence service under the control of civilians. To accommodate such a change the Parliament would have to approve it, most of the members have supported it. 

Streamlining of local military urged
Following the scandals, military reforms were ordered. One of them was to unify the two armies into one by January of 2004. 
The Bosnian republic is being governed by a number of Anglo-Saxon political and military leaders at present, at least in its highest echelons. The International High Representative in Bosnia is Paddy Ashdown, a former marine commando and erstwhile leader of the UK Liberal Democrats, now virtual viceroy of the Balkan state, which is for a while a colony of the international community, meaning in the first place NATO.
The commander of the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) is the US supremo, Lt-General William Ward. A key figure in international deliberations about Bosnia is naturally NATO General-Secretary Lord (George) Robertson, formerly a UK Labour party stalwart and British minister of defence.
The three figures are acting in concert to bring about a state-level ministry of defence in Bosnia and joint command over three military factions, one Serb, the other two Croat and Muslim in the other of the two constituent republics of the state, that co-exist in the country following the civil war of 1992-95. In early November Ashdown and Ward presented a letter from Robertson to the tripartite state presidency calling upon top officials to move towards the unified command system and common defence structure. The objective is clearly to make a recurrence of civil war an administrative, not just a geopolitical, impossibility.
The only state-level body that currently exists is the so-called Standing Committee for Military Matters (SCMM). A central defence body was never constituted, since the respective authorities in the two Bosnian entities were unable to reach agreement on the vexed issue. Ward has outlined his conception of the natural development of defence policy for Bosnia. Its priority must be to "enhance the role of the SCMM secretary-general and promote him into the country's defence minister."
Meanwhile, Britain has announced that it will help establish an international military training centre in Bosnia, which opened in January 2004. Secretary-General of the SCMM, Stjepan Pocrnja, made the announcement following a meeting with a NATO delegation in Sarajevo where the centre will be based.
The centre is intended to help maintain peace and stability in the Balkans as well as to train troops in the region to serve international military peace missions. Bosnia has yet to fulfil the necessary conditions to join the NATO Partnership for Peace programme. However, Pocrnja stated, the country is now making major steps in the right direction.

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Bosnian Serb government declares areas hit by drought areas of natural disaster

BHTV1 in Sarajevo, reported that they had received the news that the Bosnian Serb Republic government has accepted the proposal of the Agricultural Ministry and declared areas hit by drought natural disaster areas. 
Introduction of measures to overcome the current situation and prevent more consequences were urged.

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Japan signs agreement with Bosnia to reduce commercial debt by 33 per cent

Bosnia-Herzegovina Finance and Treasury Minister, Ljerka Maric, and charge d'affaires of the Japanese embassy in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Yoshiaki Kotaki, signed in Sarajevo an agreement on rescheduling the Bosnia-Herzegovina commercial dept inherited from the former Yugoslavia, amounting to around US$20.21m, SRNA News Agency has reported.
The agreement signed, Kotaki said that the Japanese government would reduce the Bosnia-Herzegovina debt by 33 per cent.
According to Kotaki, the agreement is in line with the decision of the Paris Club of 28th October 1998, and the first instalment is to be paid on 1st June of this year, while the debt is to be paid off in full by 2031.
"I am glad that the rescheduling will reduce Bosnia-Herzegovina budgetary obligations and at the same time contribute to strengthening Bosnia-Herzegovina economic development," said Kotaki.
Ljerka Maric thanked the Japanese government and said that this year alone, significant savings to the Bosnia-Herzegovina budget were made regarding foreign debt. She added that Bosnia-Herzegovina had to repay US$324m this year to foreign creditors.
Ljerka Maric said the agreement was the last one to be signed with all members of the Paris Club.

Bosnia receives almost US$40m from succession funds deposited in USA

A total of US$36.8m of freed assets of the National Bank of former SFRY [Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] were on 30th April transferred to the BiH [Bosnia-Hercegovina] Central Bank account, Onasa News Agency web site has reported. 
The USA had frozen a total of US$238m of the ex-SFRY National Bank assets. 
The finances were released on 30th April, while BiH received the above mentioned amount, pursuant to the Agreement on Succession of ex-SFRY Property. 
The instructions for receiving the finances were given to the Central Bank by the BiH Ministry of Finance and Treasury in accordance with the authorization from the BiH Council of Ministers.

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Bosnian Federation premier, French ambassador discuss foreign investment

Talks held on 28th April between the Bosnia-Herzegovina Federation Prime Minister Ahmet Hadzipasic and French Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina Bernard Bajolet focused on the current political and economic situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Federation, with particular emphasis on the fight against organized crime, the Federation government's information office has reported.
They emphasized the necessity for speeding up the reform process in the judiciary and especially in processing economic criminal cases.
Regarding the need for further training and technical equipping of the security services, the Federation prime minister said that significant support could be extended by the international community, with special attention given to training police members for specific types of crime.
In talks dealing with economic matters, Ambassador Bajolet expressed an interest for larger French participation in the privatisation process, pointing out existing difficulties, especially in the sale of small and medium-sized companies.
Prime Minister Hadzipasic pointed out that the Federation government was ready to consistently implement regulations to remove administrative and other obstacles for more foreign investment and to reverse its privatisation plans. Regarding French company investment interests in Bosnia-Herzegovina, he mentioned the Maglaj-based Natron company [paper manufacturing and processing], the Velika Kladusa-based Agrokomerc company [agricultural products manufacturer] and the Bihac-based refrigerator manufacturer, Bira company.

Bosnia, Albania sign free trade agreement

The minister for foreign trade and economic relations in the [Bosnia-Herzegovina] Council of Ministers, Mila Gadzic, and Albanian Foreign Minister Ilir Meta signed a bilateral free trade agreement in Sarajevo on 28th April, BH Radio 1 has reported. 
After the signing ceremony, Gadzic said that with this document both states confirmed the intention to cooperate actively and take an active part in the regional integration processes.

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