Leuenberger pledges further Swiss aid to Bosnia

Moritz Leuenberger (right) held talks with the main western envoy to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Wolfgang Petritsch Keystone

The president, Moritz Leuenberger, has promised to continue Switzerland's aid programmes in Bosnia-Herzegovina. On the last leg of his two-day visit to the Balkans, he met senior politicians in Sarajevo.

This content was published on April 27, 2001 - 13:54

Leuenberger pledged to help Bosnia overcome the lingering after-effects of the 1992-1995 war and warned of the dangers of nationalist aspirations in a multi-ethnic society.

Following talks with Bosnia's tripartite presidency in Sarajevo on Friday, Leuenberger said Switzerland would carry on its aid projects and focus on the return of refugees and efforts to rid the region of anti-personnel mines.

The meeting also discussed bilateral trade relations, including agreements to avoid double taxation and investment protection.

Leuenberger earlier held talks in Sarajevo with the High Representative of the international community in Bosnia. Wolfgang Petritsch said he was confident that the renewed tension around Sarajevo would ease again.

This week ethnic Serbs criticised the international community for reallocating territory in a suburb of Sarajevo to Bosnia's Moslem/Croat Federation as agreed under the Dayton peace agreement.

There are also growing demands by Croat nationalists for greater autonomy within the Federation.

The Swiss president's trip to Bosnia and Yugoslavia also included a visit to a project for orphans of the Bosnian conflict. The Swiss government has been co-funding the project through its Development Agency.

Switzerland has committed a total of SFr54 million ($31 million) for social and economic reconstruction in Bosnia over the past six years.

On Thursday, Leuenberger stopped off in the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, where he held talks with the president, Vojislav Kostunica.

At their meeting, Kostunica spoke of his intention to revamp his country's political structure using Switzerland as a model.

Kostunica said he would draw on the Swiss example in future negotiations about the structure of the Yugoslav Federation - comprised of Serbia and its much smaller sister republic, Montenegro.

Kostunica made clear that he intends to hold the Federation together, despite Montenegrin calls for independence, and said that "Swiss constitutional solutions and experiences could be very valuable assets for us".

For his part, Leuenberger pledged that Switzerland would "continue to have an active role in aiding Yugoslavia".

The talks also focused on frozen accounts in Swiss banks allegedly containing assets deposited by representatives of the former regime of President Slobodan Milosevic.

Leuenberger reiterated that Switzerland was ready to provide legal assistance to Yugoslavia in its corruption investigation into Milosevic, who is accused of siphoning off billions of dollars from state coffers.

In the next few weeks, experts from Belgrade are to be invited to Switzerland by the finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, to discuss technical aspects of legal assistance.

The Swiss authorities have blocked more than 40 accounts, reportedly containing SFr12 million ($7 million). Switzerland is also investigating the transfer of about 270 kilogrammes of gold from Yugoslavia.

swissinfo with agencies

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