Bosnian Serb president relents over urgent Croatia border deal

SARAJEVO Tue Jun 18, 2013 12:36pm EDT

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SARAJEVO (Reuters) - The Serb member of Bosnia's presidency agreed on Tuesday to new border rules needed for when neighboring Croatia joins the EU in July, reversing his position from Monday when he rejected the deal.

Nebojsa Radmanovic, the Serb chairman of the presidency that he shares with Muslim and Croat members, said that he changed his mind after getting a green light for the deal from the leadership of the autonomous Serb Republic.

Without the agreement, due to be signed in Brussels on Wednesday, people and goods would not be allowed to cross the border after July 1 - a potentially huge blow to the country's exports.

The new rules had been considered a largely procedural matter, but Radmanovic said on Monday that Serb representatives had been excluded from an ad hoc panel that agreed a deal with Croatia last week and that he would not accept it.

On Tuesday he said that the Serb Republic's president and prime minister had agreed to the deal, "bearing in mind the deadlines and potential negative implications for Bosnian firms and citizens which could emerge if it were not enforced by July 1".

The European Commission has scheduled the signing of the border agreement for Wednesday and the presidency said that Prime Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda was now authorized to sign it.

An official for the EU had earlier warned that a failure to sign the agreement would leave border crossings "in a kind of a limbo". Bosnia makes most of its exports via the 1,000-km (620-mile) border with Croatia.

The discord has highlighted the deficiencies of the tripartite presidency, an institution that emerged after the Bosnian war as a precarious system of power-sharing between Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.

(Reporting By Maja Zuvela; Editing by Daria Sito-Sucic and Robin Pomeroy)

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