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Top US, Austrian Diplomats Call for Reform in Bosnia-Herzegovina

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Austrian counterpart Michael Spindelegger discussed the need for reform in the Balkans when they met Tuesday afternoon at the State Department.

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, whose nation is organizing next month's conference in Berlin on reconstruction and stabilization in the Balkans, says now is the time to address the need for reform in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"They are forming a new government, and this is the right moment just to give them advice that we are expecting constitutional reforms in Bosnia-Herzegovina," said Michael Spindelegger.

He added there is also the right moment to apply pressure.

Last week, Bosnia-Herzegovina inaugurated its new three-member presidency, which is made up of elected leaders of the three communities.

Clinton, who visited the Balkans last month, has warned Bosnia-Herzegovina to make reforms or risk being left behind as its neighbors integrate into greater Europe.

Speaking alongside Spindelegger after their meeting, Clinton told reporters that the United States and the European Union want to see changes that will benefit the people in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"We all believe that there needs to be constitutional reform in order for the government to function more effectively," said Hillary Clinton. "I made it clear when I was in Sarajevo that we support the continuation of the Office of High Representative until there is such time when we believe that the government is willing to address the issues that are still unresolved amongst the various communities."

High Representative Valentin Inzko, the international envoy for Bosnia-Herzegovina and an Austrian national, is responsible for the civilian aspects of the peace accord that ended the three-year civil war in 1995. He told the United Nations Security Council last week that feuding between the Bosnian Muslim, Serb and Croat communities continue to hamper reforms.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is divided into two semi-autonomous regions - the Serb republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation, which are linked by a weak central government.

Each entity has its own government, but they share joint institutions that Washington and Europe want to strengthen in order to make the country more functional.

Clinton also praised the Austrian government's recent decision to extend its peackeeping mission in the Balkans, as well as in the Golan Heights in the Middle East.