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ICRC President begins Balkans tour

02-04-2001 News Release 01/11

Geneva (ICRC) – The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jakob Kellenberger, is today beginning a tour of Balkan countries during which he will encourage greater efforts to find out what has happened to people reported missing and will meet their anguished families. He will deal as well with other matters of humanitarian concern resulting from wars now ended, such as the needs of displaced persons and the danger posed by landmines. Mr Kellenberger will also discuss the tragic consequences of the ongoing fighting in southern Serbia and in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. He will be in Zagreb on Monday 2 April; then from 3 to 7 April he will visit Sarajevo, Belgrade, Pristina and Skopje. Meetings are planned with senior government authorities, National Red Cross Society officials and representatives of the international community.

Almost ten years after the start of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, the fate of more than 24,000 missing persons remains to be ascertained, a state of affairs which has caused prolonged suffering for their families and which is hampering the region's return to peace and stability. Over a million displaced people are living far from their homes, in often difficult conditions. Furthermore, landmines and other munitions left over from the fighting are continuing to kill civilians. In view of this situation, Mr Kellenberger wishes to reaffirm the humanitarian commitment of the ICRC, which is working in conjunction with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and to urge the international community to maintain its support.

In conflict areas in sou thern Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the ICRC, coordinating the activities of the Movement, is providing resident and displaced civilians with protection and assistance.

The ICRC, which has been working in the region without interruption since 1989, operates through its network of 26 delegations and local offices, with over 100 expatriate staff and almost 900 locally hired employees. Its 2001 budget for the region amounts to nearly 100 million Swiss francs.