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Bosnia must reform or be 'left behind': Clinton

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said Bosnia must bring about much-needed reforms if it hopes to join NATO and the European Union. Clinton plans to visit Serbia and Kosovo later in her trip.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves to supporters in Sarajevo

Clinton kicked off her Balkan tour in Sarajevo

A week after elections which failed to help unite the ethnically split Bosnia, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on the country to push through much needed reforms "or risk being left behind."

"[Bosnia] will need to deliver more for its citizens, by passing reforms that would improve key services, attract more foreign investment and make the government more functional and accountable," Clinton said in a speech to students in Sarajevo Tuesday.

She added that the changes were essential for Bosnia's ambitions to join the European Union and NATO. "Your neighbors have taken strides in that direction ... Bosnia and Herzegovina must join them or risk being left behind," she said.

Clinton was in Sarajevo on the first leg of a two-day tour of the Balkans, there to meet the three co-presidents of Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo.

Serbian nationalist made gains

Last week's elections, which failed to bridge the gap between the semi-autonomous Muslim Croat Federation and Bosnian Serbs' Republika Srpska, saw the Serbian nationalist Union of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) post large wins. Clinton is expected to call on the different communities to set aside their differences and reinforce the central institutions that will help the country join the EU.

People cheer candidates of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) at a rally in Sarajevo

Last week's elections did little to heal divisions

"It's fair to say that the political process is stalled, and it's one of the reasons the secretary wanted to come here," said Philip Gordon, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, from Washington.

Bosnia has stumbled in its attempts to join the EU and NATO as the three main ethnic communities in the country have been unable to put their differences aside and reform an inefficient, complicated administration.

Bosnian politicians last year rejected a constitutional reform proposed by the US and the European Union.

Visit continues in Serbia

Following her visit in Sarajevo, Clinton is set to fly to Belgrade for meetings with Serbian President Boris Tadic and other officials. They plan to discuss the start of the EU-sponsored talks between Serbia and the breakaway province of Kosovo, which declared its independence in 2008.

Kosovo's declaration has been recognized by the US and most of the EU, but not by Russia and a number of European states. Clinton also plans to meet with the provisional leaders of Kosovo in the capital Pristina.

Author: Martin Kuebler (AFP/AP/dpa)
Editor: Rob Turner

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