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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bosnian Premier to Alternate Weekly

SARAJEVO -- After haggling since the September elections, Bosnia's three-man presidency agreed Saturday on the makeup of a new government, with a Bosnian Serb and a Moslem to rotate weekly in the post of de facto prime minister.

The six-person, ethnically balanced Council of Ministers also will include a Croat as vice chairman and as foreign minister, a Bosnian Serb as minister for civil affairs and communications and a Bosnian Moslem as minister for foreign trade and economic relations.

Each minister will have two deputies representing Bosnia's other two ethnic groups.

"Some people might say it's a complicated structure, some people might say it's extravagant,'' said international mediator Michael Steiner. "But it is a structure which takes into account that after the war ... there is still so much mistrust.''

At a news conference to present the agreement, Steiner called it another step on the road to fulfilling the Dayton peace accord and giving Bosnia a single, common government.

Asked about giving the Civil and Communications Ministry to the Bosnian Serbs, who have been the most persistent violators on such issues as the return of refugees and press freedoms, Steiner conceded there may be "bumps on the road.''

"Just by having the Council of Ministers we will not enter paradise,'' he said. "But then we have to ask ourselves, what is the choice?''

He said he thought that having the three parties working together would develop "an institutional responsibility'' that would prevent abuses.

"In the end it will depend on personalities and the willingness to cooperate,'' he said.

Steiner and his boss, the civilian peace coordinator Carl Bildt, have been pressing Bosnia's co-presidents -- one from each ethnic group -- to reach an agreement in time for several international conferences in early December and so that the government could begin addressing the critical problems facing many Bosnians with the onset of winter.

The formation of a functioning national government is necessary before Bosnia can approach the World Bank and other international institutions to get loans for reconstructing the country, devastated by almost four years of war.

Moslems and Croats had wanted the new Council of Ministers to comprise three Moslems, two Serbs and one Croat, reflecting the size of the country's three main ethnic groups. The Serb leaders had insisted on only one minister from each of the three parties.

The agreement, reached after nine lengthy sessions, "shows that despite the difficulties, the presidency can come to a consensus,'' Steiner said.

The rotating co-chairs will have "de facto functions of a prime minister,'' Steiner said.

Steiner called on the parliamentary assembly to approve the council plan by next weekend so that the positions could be filled.

The presidency meeting also formally agreed to grant the followup force replacing the NATO-led peace force the same powers as the IFOR, or Implementation Force, had.

It jointly supported an earlier invitation by President Alija Izetbegovic to Pope John Paul II to visit Sarajevo.