March 10, 2000Serb and Croat vow return of refugees
BANJA LUKA, Bosnia and Herzegovina, March 9 -- Five years after the signing of the Dayton peace accord ending the Bosnia war, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright was told today by senior Croatian and Bosnian Serb leaders that they would submit legislation to allow thousands of refugees to return to their homes.
The Bosnian Serb prime minister, Milorad Dodik, and Croatia's foreign minister, Tonino Picula, told Ms. Albright that within three months, bills would be considered to enable refugees to return to areas under the control of rival ethnic groups.
As a sign of good will, both sides agreed to let 4,000 Bosnian Croats and Croatian Serbs return home before the three-month deadline. The refugees fled their homes during ethnic wars in the Balkans.
The legislation would affect about 30,000 Serbs who fled Croatia and now live in the Serbian part of Bosnia, as well as about 70,000 Croats who escaped from Bosnia and took refuge in Croatia, according to United Nations figures.
Ms. Albright said she enthusiastically welcomed the agreement and added that the Clinton administration would provide $2 million for the reconstruction of about 100 homes on each side of the border.
"We are taking another step away from past madness," she said before leaving for Brussels.
Although the Dayton accord provided for refugee returns, the process was stalled because those who had led the Serbian, Muslim and Croatian populations into war remained in power after it was over.