CEOL
Bosnian Serb refugee minister resigns

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia, Aug 23, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Bosnian Serb Minister for Refugees Miladin Dragicevic resigned on Tuesday, citing international pressure on him as the reason.

"There has been tremendous pressure lately by the international community, numerous associations and individuals on the Ministry and me personally, related to the implementation of property laws," Dragicevic said in a resignation letter to Prime Minister Milorad Dodik.

About one million refugees and displaced persons from Bosnia's 1992-95 war have still not returned to their pre-war homes.

The lowest number of returns has been recorded in the Serb republic, which together with the Moslem-Croat federation makes up post-war Bosnia. Local authorities have prevented the return of pre-war Moslem and Croat residents.

According to August data issued by the UN refugee agency, only some 6,000 of over 80,000 people who have filed claims this year have actually got their property back in the Serb republic.

Dragicevic was faced with a difficult task to meet the requests of thousands of Moslem and Croat refugees who wanted to return to the region. But also faced pressures from the Serb refugees currently occupying their homes.

Many of the Serbs do not want to return to the Moslem-Croat federation and have requested the ministry provide them with permanent accommodation in the Serb republic.

Dragicevic said in the letter that he has done his best under the circumstances in which the ministry has had to work, and that the results were improving over time.

"However, despite all of this, the international community is not satisfied and I think that the best move for me is to resign from the position of minister," he said.

The Bosnian Serb government has been heavily criticized by non-governmental organizations and refugee associations from the federation over its failure to secure the return of ethnic minorities to the Serb republic.

An official of the European Parliament, Doris Pack, who visited Banja Luka last week, also urged the Bosnian Serb authorities to speed up the return process.



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