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Bosnia: Aid Conference To Open Today

Washington, 9 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - A two-day international aid conference for Bosnia-Herzegovina is scheduled to open today in Brussels.

The delegation from Bosnia is expected to include five representatives from the Muslim-Croat Federation, five from the Bosnian Serb entity, and six from Bosnia's new central government.

Foreign Trade and Economy Minister Hasan Muratovic, who will lead the delegation, said earlier this week that housing for returning refugees "is the first priority" in Bosnia's requests for international assistance. He identified other needs as employment assistance, support for social programs, infrastructure reconstruction, and support for the country's general budget.

The World Bank and the European Union have recommended a $1.4 million aid target for Bosnian reconstruction in 1997. This year's main pledging conference is set for March.

The Bosnian Serbs boycotted last year's main aid gathering. Observers cite the boycott, and the reluctance of the Bosnian Serbs to take part in joint Bosnian institutions, as the two reasons so little reconstruction aid went to the Republika Srpska last year. It received only some two percent of the $1.8 million pledged to Bosnia in 1996.