UN encouraged by pace of repatriation of Balkan refugees

ZAGREB, Sep 6, 2000 -- (AFP) The UN's Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, Soren Jessen-Petersen, described the pace of repatriations of Bosnian refugees from Croatia as encouraging, after a recent acceleration of the process.

"We can finally register important, encouraging progresses in returns," Jessen-Petersen told reporters here.

But he said there were "enormous difficulties ahead" in solving the problem of those still displaced by war in the two countries, both formerly part of Yugoslavia.

An estimated one million people are still displaced in Bosnia and a further 200,000 in Croatia.

More than 10,000 Serbs returned home with the aid of the UN refugee agency UNHCR since Croatia's democratic government took office earlier this year, Jessen-Petersen said, adding that at least double that figure had returned without UN assistance.

In Bosnia, the assistant high commissioner said he had noted a similar acceleration in the number of displaced persons returning to their respected Serb, Croat or Muslim communities -- around 200,000 since the beginning of the year.

He said the largest obstacle was the return of property to returnees.

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