The Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Miro Kovac, said on Monday that Sunday's referendum in the Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska was in contravention of Bosnia and Herzegovina's constitution and that any attempts to break up Bosnia and Herzegovina were unacceptable to Croatia.

"The referendum is unacceptable to us and is not contributing to stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Such referendums should be avoided and Bosnia and Herzegovina should be moving towards the EU. It must guarantee constitutionality and equality for the Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs, and that's our policy," Kovac told the press outside the head office of his Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party.

"Any partitioning or disintegration of Bosnia and Herzegovina is unacceptable to Croatia, which vouches for the existence of Bosnia and Herzegovina," he said.

Bosnian Serbs decided at a referendum on Sunday that January 9 should be marked in their entity as Republika Srpska Day, with nearly 100 percent of voters who cast their ballots voting in favour. The vote gave rise to fears that it might be a prelude to a referendum on the Serb entity's secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court banned the referendum as unconstitutional and discriminatory against the Croats and Bosniaks. The vote was held despite the ban.

Kovac said that Croatia, as a signatory to the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was a guarantor of the country's constitution.

Kovac said that he would work with his colleagues in Serbia to ensure that no new referendums were held in Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that such efforts would be supported by the partners in the international community and witnesses to the Agreement for Peace, namely Russia, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and France.

"We will work with these countries to ensure that Bosnia and Herzegovina survives and embarks on the path of integration into the EU," Kovac said, welcoming last week's decision by the Bosnian Council of Ministers requesting an opinion from the European Commission on Bosnia and Herzegovina's EU membership application.

He said that in a telephone conversation on Monday he agreed with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the need to work on the survival and stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina based on the Dayton peace agreement and respect for the principle of equality for all three ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina -- Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks.

Commenting on the case of conversion of loans denominated in the Swiss franc into euro-denominated loans, Kovac said that Croatia would fight for Croatian interests and the interests of its citizens.

Asked if Croatia would recognise the outcome of arbitration in this case, Kovac said that "we will do all in our power to protect all debtors with loans denominated in that currency."

"We will fight for Croatian interests. We are a law-governed state. There are international treaties, as well as international and European law. We will use them in our fight for Croatian interests and the interests of Croatian citizens, which is a priority," Kovac said.

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