US corruption investigators recommend reassessment of aid to Bosnia

WASHINGTON, Jul 7, 2000 -- (AFP) U.S. congressional investigators called Friday for a reassessment of U.S. assistance programs to Bosnia because of rampant corruption in the war-ravaged former Yugoslav republic.

"Because senior Bosnia officials have not demonstrated the will to address the problem of crime and corruption and work toward a society based on the rule of law, we are recommending that the Secretary of State reassess the strategy for providing assistance to Bosnia," the General Accounting Office (GAO) said in a report.

US President Bill Clinton has requested more 100 million dollars in aid funds for Bosnia for fiscal 2001. It was not immediately clear how the GAO recommendation was going to affect the appropriations process.

But a key Republican lawmaker has already issued an appeal for reorienting US assistance policies toward both Bosnia and Kosovo, a UN-administered Yugoslav province, which was the site of brutal ethnic cleansing of majority Albanians by Serb troops last year.

"I believe that what we are seeing in Bosnia also has implications that we need to heed in Kosovo," said Benjamin Gilman, chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

"We need to make fighting crime and corruption our number one priority in the Balkans," he added. "Until we do so our other objectives cannot be fulfilled."

Since the 1995 signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war in Bosnia, the international community has committed over four billion dollars in aid to the country.

The GAO report said the congressional investigators found no evidence of this money being lost to large-scale fraud and corruption. But it noted the assistance "may be used to replace Bosnian domestic revenues lost to crime and corruption."

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