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Bosnian Leaders Back Government Reforms

Bosnian leaders pledged to implement sweeping constitutional reforms aimed at ending lingering ethnic divisions in their country and also called for the surrender or arrest of two top Serb war crimes suspects.

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War crimes suspects are still at large in a country seeking ties to the West

Bosnia's tri-partite presidency, representing the country's Muslim, Croat and Serb communities, agreed that they would work to "streamline" the country's governing structure and constitution by March, in ceremonies Tuesday in Washington.

The plans to modernize the Dayton accords, which set up Bosnia-Herzegovina's government 10 years ago and ended the region's bloody civil war by creating two political entities -- the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation -- call for replacing the group of three ethnic leaders with a single president and boost the powers of the central government.

Moschee Sarajevo

Bosnian leaders hope to unify the country's ethnic groups

"We have decided to embark upon a process of constitutional reform that will enhance the authorities of the state government and streamline parliament and the office of the presidency," read a statement signed by leaders from the country's Serb, Muslim and Croat communities.

The Bosnian leaders said they were determined to implement the reforms, which would open the door to closer relations between Bosnia and Euro-Atlantic institutions, before Bosnia's general elections in October 2006. By law, any changes to the constitution have to be made at least six months prior to elections.

Movi n g from Dayto n to Brussels

Assistant US Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Dan Fried said the various parties had agreed on a single presidency for the country but were still working on details.

"We decided not to get into specifics (in the agreement) or else the whole thing would fall apart," he said. "The overall import of all of this is to put Bosnia on a road going to Europe. If you want the slogan, it's from Dayton to Brussels."

Olli Rehn EU erweiterungskommissar zu Türkei

Rehn will travel to Bosnia on Friday to start talks

European Union foreign ministers on Monday authorized the start of negotiations on an agreement to prepare Bosnia for EU membership, but EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn (photo) made it clear the country needs to speed up reforms to "improve the citizen rights and economic opportunities of the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina" if ultimate accession to the EU is to succeed.

Serbs call for trials war crimes suspects

In response to another EU and US demand, members of the Bosnian Serb leadership also issued a separate public statement backing calls for the surrender or arrest of top Serb war crimes suspects Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic for the first time.

"These are encouraging words and now they must lead to serious action," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. "There can be no more excuses and no more delays. Ten years is long enough."

Ein Mann blickt am 20.1.2001 auf neue Fahndungsplakate der als Kriegsverbrecher angeklagten bosnischen Serben Radovan Karadzic und General Ratko Mladic in Sarajevo

Karadzic and Mladic's faces are seen all over Sarajevo

Karadzic and Mladic, Bosnia's wartime Serb political and military leaders, are wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes during the war that claimed some 250,000 lives. The fate of some 14,000 Bosnians still unknown.

Should the pair not surrender, Bosnian Serb authorities said they would take "all possible measures and actions to find and apprehend them."

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