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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Serbs Skip Conference On Bosnia Restoration

BRUSSELS -- Officials from 55 nations and two dozen finance agencies started assembling a $1.2 billion aid package Friday to help rebuild Bosnia, but the Bosnian Serbs refused to take part.

The European Union and World Bank, co-hosts of a two-day donors' conference, said they were holding a seat open in case the Serbs changed their minds.

"They have a leadership that doesn't take the interests of their own people into account,'' said Carl Bildt, the UN official in charge of civil aspects of the Balkan peace accord.

The Serbs refused to attend the meeting unless they were allowed to send their own delegation, independent of the Bosnian central government.

The chairman of Friday's opening session, EU Commission Director General Guenter Burghardt, warned the Serbs were "excluding [themselves] from sharing for the time being the political and other benefits of the conference.''

Officials from the 15-nation EU and World Bank said, however, they were still considering the needs of all Bosnia, not just Moslem-Croat areas.

Organizers hope the conference, bringing together countries from Japan to Estonia, will reach a target of $1.8 billion to begin rebuilding Bosnia's war-shattered economy and infrastructure this year.

The group of donors already pledged $600 million last December to get reconstruction going over the winter.