Bosnia appeals for help to house refugees

CRANS-Montana, U.S., Jul 1, 2000 -- (Reuters) The head of Bosnia's Moslem-Croat federation appealed on Friday for $1 billion in aid or soft loans to help rebuild shattered housing and let refugees finally return to their homes.

Federation President Ejup Ganic told the Crans-Montana business forum that the dream of rebuilding a multi-ethnic Bosnia may be lost forever if the world did not help people displaced by Bosnia's ethnic war reclaim their homes in the next year or two.

"We have been spending money to keep the peace. Now we need money to build the peace," he said, pointing out that the international community was spending $6 billion to $7 billion on maintaining peacekeeping forces in the country and rebuilding infrastructure.

Serbs, Croats and Moslems fought an ethnic war in Bosnia until the 1995 Dayton peace accord ended the conflict by dividing the republic into two entities - the Serb-led Republika Srpska and the federation.

The U.S.-brokered accord has kept the peace, but around 1.5 million refugees are still waiting to return to homes they fled to escape brutal ethnic cleansing.

Thousands have sought asylum elsewhere and are lost to Bosnia forever as they try to rebuild their lives, he said.

Since the peace deal was signed, the main obstacle to letting refugees return has switched from physical security to a lack of money to rebuild, Ganic said.

Donations to help fix homes and hook up water and electricity were running out fast.

He outlined a plan in which the international community - supported by the United States, the European Union, and World Bank - would draw up a loan scheme to be repaid over 20 or 30 years. Islamic countries would also likely contribute.

Proceeds would pay for returning refugees to rebuild their homes so that they had a roof, one room and utilities. Each family could get around 10,000 marks for the work.

People returning to villages could get a few cows or sheep and a tractor for every 10 households. In urban areas, people would get help rebuilding multi-ethnic factories or small businesses.

An international board would supervise how the loans were used, he said, and international financial experts would draft a plan on how to repay the money.

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