Bosnian regional PM urges reshuffle to end stalemate

SARAJEVO Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:19pm EST

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SARAJEVO (Reuters) - The prime minister of one of Bosnia's two regional governments called for the removal of eight opposition ministers on Monday, in a bid to clear a political blockage he has said risks hurting the country's relationship with the IMF.

The regional assembly governing Bosnia's autonomous Bosniak-Croat Federation has been stuck in stalemate since the summer when a new ruling coalition was formed in the overall Bosnian national government.

The Bosniak-Croat assembly quickly set up its own new coalition to reflect the changes on the national stage.

But the region's President Zivko Budimir, from one of the parties excluded from the new coalition, refused to make corresponding changes to the regional cabinet.

That left the Federation with eight ministers from parties outside the new coalition who have gone on to hold up key legislation including, last month, the region's draft budget.

Bosniak-Croat Prime Minister Nermin Niksic announced he had sent a proposal to President Budimir to replace the ministers, saying he had evidence they were actively obstructing the work of the government.

"I expect that the Federation President will ... confirm the replacement of the ministers ... In this way we shall open the door to the reconstruction of the government in line with composition of new parliament majority," Niksic said in a statement.

Budimir gave a guarded response.

"Before making any kind of decision, I have to be convinced that it will lead to the resolution of the crisis ... But I am still not convinced," he said in a television interview.

Under the complex constitution, regional presidents have the last say in the formation of regional cabinets.

The Bosniak-Croat cabinet failed to approve the region's draft 2013 budget proposal last month after the opposition ministers boycotted the meeting, depriving it of a quorum.

Niksic ended up sending it to parliament without cabinet approval, saying he did not want to damage Bosnia's relationship with the IMF.

Bosnia has a 405 million euro (327 million pounds) standby arrangement with the IMF to plug the budget gaps of its two autonomous regions, the Bosniak-Croat federation and the Serb Republic, which are linked via a weak central government.

The IMF has made the release of its funds conditional on the passing of a number of economic reforms, legislation that Niksic says is threatened by the current stalemate.

(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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