US grants Croatia $30mln additional aid

WASHINGTON, Aug 10, 2000 -- (AFP) U.S. President Bill Clinton on Wednesday promised Croatian President Stipe Mesic USD 30 million of fresh aid in recognition of his country's speedy democratic reforms, White House officials said.

The additional aid amounts to a "show of confidence" in Croatia, said a senior US official, who asked not to be named.

Mesic and his Prime Minister Ivica Racan, who on Tuesday began an official visit to Washington, "have moved their country over the last six months at a breathtaking pace away from the authoritarianism of the Tudjman era towards democracy and Europe," the official said.

Franco Tudjman, who led Croatia's secession from Yugoslavia, served as the country's first president until his death last December.

The new U.S. aid comprises USD 21 million approved by the U.S. Congress as part of a recent budget supplement, together with USD 4.5 million to rebuild homes for returning refugees, and four million dollars of military aid.

The U.S. aid for housing signals approval for the Croatian government's policy of encouraging Croatian Serbs to return to their homes, the official said.

He said that Clinton had told Mesic and Racan, during a meeting in the Oval Office Wednesday, that the United States welcomed the new direction that the Croatian government was taking, especially in moving Croatia closer to NATO, the official said.

Clinton applauded "the new constructive role that Croatia is taking in the region, including in Bosnia Herzegovina, where the Croatian government has been urging the Croatian minority to participate fully in the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement," the official said.

The Croatian leaders were also congratulated for their support for pro-western Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, an outspoken critic of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, the official indicated.

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