Croat President Ivo Josipovic, who visited Bosnia and Herzegovina including Serb half the country, called on Sunday for ethnic Croats who fled the conflict to return.
Of 200,000 Croats living there before the 1992-95 Bosnia war, just 12,000 remain in what is now the Serb Republic, the autonomous region that, along with the Muslim-Croat federation, makes up present-day Bosnia.
Bosnia's Orthodox Serbs attacked on Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats in Europe's worst conflict since World War Two from 1992 to 1995, in which 100,000 people died most of them were Muslims. The country is divided into two rival halves -- the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb Republic.
The war of Bosnian Serbs in Balkan country killed at least 100,000 people, most of them Muslims, and more than two million homeless.
"We must insist on sustainable return and ensure that returnees get jobs, social and health security as well as education," Josipovic said, speaking in the northern Bosnian town of Derventa.
Josipovic met Muslim, Croat and Serb officials and religious leaders to discuss reconciliation.
He said the time had also come for the return of about 40,000 Croatian Serbs who fled Croatia during its 1991-95 independence war and found refuge in the Serb Republic.
"I will support with all means the return of Serbs to Croatia and concrete ways on how to speed up the process will be agreed in the coming period," he said.
The return of refugees and ensuring minority rights are important issues in Croatia's bid to join the European Union.
About 200 people gathered in front of the Roman Catholic church in Derventa to greet him. "I am happy this visit is happening at last and I hope it will bear fruit," said Bosnian Croat Branislava Mikic.
Josipovic, accompanied by head of the main Muslim party Sulejman Tihic and Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, also visited the sites of 1992 mass killings of Muslims, Croats and Serbs in northern and northwestern Bosnia.
"We are here to pay respects to the victims and their families and it is important that representatives of all three ethnic groups are here to do so," Josipovic said in Sijekovac, the village near the border with Croatia where Croat troops killed up to 20 Serbs.
Visiting massacre areas
He was also due to visit the villages of Kozarac where 600 Muslims were killed by Serbs and 1,200 remain unaccounted for, and Brisevo, where Serbs massacred 60 Croat civilians.
The Croats are the smallest of the three main ethnic groups in Bosnia and, their influence waning through emigration and dwindling support from Croatia, have been demanding an improvement in their status.
Josipovic said earlier the time had come for the neighbours to forgive one another and focus on their EU membership drive.
Croatia hopes to complete membership talks this year and join the bloc in 2012. No other Balkan country has opened accession talks yet, and Bosnia has not yet applied to join because ethnic and political divisions hinder major reforms.
ReutersLast Mod: 30 Mayıs 2010, 17:23