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Bosnia leaders agree to remake government divided after war

WASHINGTON -- With a prod from the United States, leaders of Bosnia's three major ethnic factions agreed yesterday to remake their divided government a decade after the end of their bloody civil war, Europe's bloodiest fighting since World War II.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heralded the Balkan accord struck in Washington, but warned that international patience has run out for the accused war criminals who walk free in Bosnia.

''There can be no more excuses and no more delays," Rice said at a State Department luncheon celebrating the 10th anniversary of a US-brokered peace settlement. ''Ten years is long enough."

Rice spoke at a luncheon with Bosnian political leaders and diplomats from the Clinton administration.

The 1995 agreement signed in Dayton, Ohio, ended a three-year civil war only by allowing Serbs, Croats, and Muslims to preside over separate political spheres. The result was an inefficient, three-headed government that Rice said was appropriate for its day, but is now outmoded.

The nation of 4 million people -- about the size of Los Angeles -- has 14 different education departments.

''Today, Bosnia-Herzegovina is joining the international community," Rice said.

Yesterday's agreement commits Bosnian leaders to revamp the national constitution by March of next year, with an eye to joining the North American Treaty Organization and the European Union.

European nations have told the Bosnians that they have little hope of joining the EU, with its trade, border, economic, and political advantages, under the country's current constitution.

Ivo Miro Jovic, chairman of Bosnia's three-president arrangement, spoke after Rice at the luncheon.

''This key that opens this door of the future has been given to us, but only if we know how to use it and open the door," he said through a translator.

The accord marks the second time in a month that Rice has applied US pressure to secure incremental agreements among former enemies. Last week in Jerusalem, she put the finishing touches to an Israeli-Palestinian pact that opens the borders of the Gaza Strip.

The Bosnian conflict began out of the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and killed 260,000 people and drove 1.8 million from their homes.

The war stunned Europe and the United States, which were slow to get involved and watched while an educated, Western-looking nation was shredded along centuries-old ethnic and religious lines.

''We will never forget the massacre at Srebenica," Rice said yesterday, referring to the Bosnian Serb slaughter of 7,500 Muslims in July 1995. The killings galvanized international will to end the war.

''America's position is clear and uncompromising: Every Balkan country must arrest its indicted war criminals or it will have no future in NATO," Rice said.

In a separate statement, the Serb entity within Bosnia said it will cooperate with an international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

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