US boosts Bosnia refugee return aid to USD 75 mln

SARAJEVO, Aug 30, 2000 -- (Reuters) The United States decided to raise funding for refugee returns in Bosnia this year to USD 75.1 million, up USD 8.1 million from its original pledge for 2000, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Miller said on Tuesday.

The increase took account of the accelerating rate of refugee returns. Washington had already boosted 2000 funding for that purpose once before, from USD 67 million to USD 70 million.

Miller said the U.S. government would continue to support the repatriation process despite a recent series of assaults targeting mainly Moslem returnees.

"We will continue, we will absolutely continue to offer our full support to minority returns despite the violence we see," Miller told a news conference in Sarajevo.

"And obstructionists who are trying to burn down houses in Srebrenica or in Janja ... will not be allowed to continue that kind of obstructionism," he said, referring to two Serb-held towns in eastern Bosnia where some Moslems have returned.

Miller said that the funds would be allocated through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its Community Reintegration and Stabilization Program (CRSP).

The money would go toward rebuilding infrastructure, such as electricity, sewage and water-supply systems, and schools in areas where returns were already taking place.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said 19,751 ethnic minority refugees had resettled in Bosnia so far this year compared with 4,571 in the same period last year.

Some 1.1 million Bosnian citizens have still not returned to their homes since the end of the 1992-95 war.

About 800,000 of them are internally displaced in Bosnia and 300,000 are refugees abroad. Most of them would be an ethnic minority if they returned to their pre-war place of residence.

The U.S. government has pledged close to USD 1 billion since the war to promote Bosnia's reconstruction, Miller said.

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