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USAID Chief Calls On Bosnian Leaders To Set Aside Rhetoric, Says U.S. Considering More Sanctions

USAID administrator Samantha Power addresses the media in Sarajevo on January 20.
USAID administrator Samantha Power addresses the media in Sarajevo on January 20.

The United States has called on the leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina to put aside divisive rhetoric, saying Washington is ready to impose more sanctions on individuals who "sow divisions."

Samantha Power, the administrator of the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID), said the United States had stood by the people of Bosnia through war and peace "and we stand with you now," but the current "talk of war" is making it difficult to attract investment from outside the country and to build a strong economy.

Power spoke on January 21 at the end of a three-day visit to Bosnia during which she met with members of the country's tripartite presidency.

She told a news conference in Sarajevo that the United States was very concerned about the current political crisis, the country's worst since its 1992-95 war.

Power called on Bosnian politicians to put aside rhetoric that brings into question the durability of 26 years of peace.

"President Dodik particularly has created a climate of tension, one that is vulnerable to miscalculation and the risk of escalation," Power said, referring to Milorad Dodik, the Serbian member of the country's presidency.

Power said that pulling the Republika Srpska out of the national institutions, as Dodik has threatened to do, would only hurt the region economically.

The United States earlier this month slapped new sanctions on Dodik, and Power said more sanctions would be coming against others who engage in corruption and threaten to undermine the U.S.-brokered, 1995 peace accord for Bosnia.

"We recognize the gravity of sanctions and the impact that they have on individuals' financial holdings, on their travel, and on their reputation," she said. "On the question whether the U.S. is considering more sanctions, the answer is yes."

Dodik repeated that he and Bosnian Serbs were being picked on unfairly by the United States and wrongly accused of corruption. After meeting with Power, he indicated some willingness to consider the Serbian representatives' return to work in Bosnia's shared institutions.

The Dayton peace accords, which ended the war, split the country into two highly autonomous regions, the Orthodox Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat federation dominated by Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks. The two regions are linked by a weak central government.

Dodik has long advocated the secession of the Republika Srpska and its eventual unification with Serbia and recently intensified his secessionist campaign.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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