US, Zagreb agree on funding for Bosnian Croats

SARAJEVO, Mar 9, 2000 -- (Reuters) Visiting U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said on Wednesday that Washington had agreed with Croatia that Zagreb's military aid to ethnic kin in Bosnia would in future be transparent and approved by Bosnia's top military body.

"The United States and the Republic of Croatia have agreed that starting today all requests for an approval of security assistance...will be transmitted through the Standing Committee on Military Matters," Albright said.

Zagreb's controversial help for Bosnian Croats during and after the Bosnian 1992-95 war amounted to tens of millions of dollars a year although no official figure has been established.

Some independent analysts put it as high as 900 million German marks ($442.4 million) a year, most of it for the Bosnian Croat military.

But after this year's sweeping changes in Croatia, which saw centrist pro-Western forces ousting nationalists following the death of autocratic President Franjo Tudjman, Zagreb showed it was ready to change its policy towards Bosnia, Albright said.

Albright, who was on a two-day visit to Bosnia, spoke to reporters after meeting Bosnia's three-man presidency, Croatian Defense Minister Jozo Rados and his counterpart Miroslav Prce in Bosnia's Moslem-Croat part.

Under the 1995 Dayton peace agreement which ended the Balkan country's 3-1/2-year war, the Moslem-Croat federation and the Serb republic comprise Bosnia, but they enjoy a high level of autonomy including separate military forces.

The military of the federation is in turn comprised of a Moslem and a Croat part.

"The Republic of Croatia is announcing an open policy towards the West, as well as towards the neighbors, including Bosnia and Herzegovina," Rados said.

"The issue of the assistance that Croatia provided to the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a big burden for the bilateral cooperation between the two countries. However, with this agreement that burden will be lifted," he said.

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