The Chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina's collective Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, has said that the Croats in that country should be guaranteed full equality in relation to the other two peoples, including the right to elect the Croat member of the state leadership, but noted that the Croats have been represented at various levels of government appropriately and that they not only have not been disadvantaged but rather privileged.

"Croats are the least numerous constituent ethnic group in Bosnia and Herzegovina and mechanisms should be set up to guarantee that they can choose their own representatives. That problem is the most evident when it comes to the election of members of the State Presidency, but it is much broader and more present in the Republika Srpska entity. On the other hand, Croats are privileged when it comes to participation in the authorities at the state level, in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and in several cantons. They are disproportionately represented in positions of ministers, managers, they are in charge of finance, etc. So the issue of the status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina has two sides," Izetbegovic said in an interview with the Banja Luka-based Nezavisne Novine daily of Tuesday.

Izetbegovic, who is leader of the predominantly Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA), said that efforts had been made to find a solution to the structure of the southern city of Mostar in line with respect for the equality of Croats and Bosniaks, but that so far there had been no will for that in the Croat HDZ BiH party.

Mostar's city statute has been put out of force as unconstitutional.

The solution that was discussed - a united city with a certain level of self-government at lower levels of government to ensure an even development of all parts of the city - was almost agreed but the HDZ BiH suddenly gave it up and offered "a unilateral proposal", said Izetbegovic.

"I don't know why they did it," he said, adding that the Bosniaks and Serbs would not allow any solution that would result in their being outvoted in Mostar considering that they were in the minority in relation to the Croats.

Commenting on relations in the ruling coalition, which in the Federation entity consists of the SDA, the HDZ BiH and the Alliance for a Better Future (SBB), led by Fahrudin Radoncic, who has been in custody on charges of obstructing justice, Izetbegovic said that it would "survive and last, but it won't have the real force and incentive" due to proceedings against Radoncic.

Speaking of the ruling structures in the Serb entity, Izetbegovic said that Bosniak political structures did not advocate the dismantling of Republika Srpska but expected the Serb side to "sincerely extend their hand in reconciliation". A precondition for that is for the Serb side to accept "that horrible crimes were committed against their Bosniak neighbours, to stop denying genocide verdicts and to stop defending and glorifying criminals, thus removing the burden of crime from their entire people."

He also called on the Bosnian Serb authorities to put an end to increasingly frequent acts of provocation and attacks on returnees and to enable Bosniaks and Croats to exercise their legal rights to security, employment and education.

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