Ogata encouraged by Croatia's stance on resolving refugee issue

ZAGREB, Mar 18, 2000 -- (AFP) UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata said here Friday she was encouraged by the determination of Croatia's newly-elected leadership to solve the burning issue of the return of refugees.

"I must say I was encouraged by the sense of determination of the government with all the outstanding issues, especially related to displacement," Ogata told a press conference.

Ogata arrived Thursday in Croatia on the first leg of her 13-day trip to the Balkans, which will take her also to the Bosnian Serb entity, Sarajevo, Belgrade, Podgorica, Pristina, Skopje and Tirana.

Ogata stressed that the talks she had with Croatian officials gave her cause for optimism regarding on the refugees issue, adding that she hoped that during her Balkans tour she would visit "areas in which I could share the determination and the policy of Croatia."

The return to their former homes of hundreds of thousand of refugees from the wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina is high on the agenda of the international community since Croatia's new center-left government replaced the nationalists of late president Franjo Tudjman earlier this year.

Many of the homes of the refugees were either destroyed or occupied by other refugees.

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