U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, calling the new Bosnian Serb prime minister a "breath of fresh air" in the Balkans, promised him Friday $5 million emergency funding for his cash-strapped government.
Premier Milorad Dodik, emerging from a meeting with Albright, said he had also been promised some $45 million in extra aid for projects in his Republika Srpska, one-half of the new Bosnia mapped out by the 1995 Dayton peace accord.Dodik, an ally of the Western-backed Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic, took over last month from a government of hard-liners loyal to former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and has rapidly won the confidence of Western countries.
State Department spokesman James Rubin said Albright and Dodik "had a very good businesslike discussion. Secretary Albright felt like a breath of fresh air had blown through the room with regard to Bosnia."
She felt "that this is a gentleman who seems determined to do the right thing in Bosnia, to see Dayton implemented, and I haven't seen her have a better meeting with a Bosnian Serb in many years of watching such meetings," Rubin added.
At a news briefing, Rubin hailed Dodik for promising to help refugees from Bosnia's 1992-95 ethnic war return home and to help ensure that indicted war crimes suspects face trial by an international tribunal in The Hague.
"He promised to work intensively to facilitate voluntary surrenders but acknowledged that under any circumstances, all (suspects) must face justice," he said.
At a Washington news conference Thursday, Dodik said he was aiming to allow 70,000 Muslim and Croat refugees to return home by September.
But at the same time, he threatened to resign over lack of aid, saying more than $6 million he had been promised by the international High Representative in Bosnia, Carlos Westendorp, to avert a teachers' strike, had failed to arrive.
Dodik joked Friday to reporters that he did not have the $5 million promised by Albright "on me right now" but hoped to get it soon. Rubin said the payment, intended as direct budgetary support, had to be approved by the U.S. Congress.
Dodik agreed to consider allegations about the war records of some members of his government but said he needed proof.
"I said that within these upcoming months I would need to be presented with specific evidence of their participation in the war," he said through an interpreter.