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Thursday, 13 June, 2002, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Kok vows support for Srebrenica
Wim Kok meets Srebrenica survivor now living in Tuzla
Muslim survivors said Mr Kok's visit was overdue
The outgoing Dutch Prime Minister, Wim Kok, has made an emotional visit to the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, the scene of a notorious massacre in 1995.


It was a black page in our common history because the international community failed to do what it was supposed to do

Wim Kok
Mr Kok pledged that his country would help to rebuild the town.

And he expressed remorse for the failure by Dutch UN troops to prevent the killing of 7,500 Muslim men and boys there in 1995.

"It was a black page in our common history because the international community failed to do what it was supposed to do," he said.


I hope he will help us, but with real help and not like the kind they gave us in 1995

Fatima Suljic
Muslim refugee
Mr Kok added that the Netherlands would not rest until Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general accused of ordering the massacre, was brought to trial for war crimes.

Dutch UN peacekeeping troops had been entrusted with protecting the population of Srebrenica, a UN-designated safe haven, but failed to halt the Serb takeover.

Responsibility

The publication earlier this year of an official report which blamed the Dutch Government and senior military officials for failing to prevent the ensuing massacre prompted Mr Kok and his cabinet to resign.

Mr Kok is, however, leading a caretaker cabinet until the new government elected in May takes office.

Wim Kok visits forensic scientists in Tuzla
Kok says his country wants to help Srebrenica
"We as the government of the Netherlands, as part of the international community, feel responsibility to be present and active as far as Srebrenica is concerned," Mr Kok said after talks with Srebrenica's Muslim mayor on Thursday.

Earlier he pledged government support for refugee return projects when he met survivors of the massacre.

"There will be more reconstructed homes in the future for the people who come back to the place where they lived before," he said.

Mayor Sefket Hafizovic said a delegation from the town would visit the Netherlands shortly to discuss projects supported by the Dutch Government.

Refugees' hopes

Srebrenica may have a Muslim mayor but it is still under Serb control and thousands of local Muslims remain refugees elsewhere in Bosnia.

But the BBC's Nick Thorpe says that while its few thousand remaining inhabitants live in abject poverty there are glimmers of hope, with a mosque being rebuilt and houses repaired.
Projects for Srebrenica
Reconstruction of infrastructure
Strengthening of civil society
Measures to build tolerance
Job creation

One woman who was in the Srebrenica enclave in 1995, Fatima Suljic, welcomed Mr Kok's visit to Bosnia but said it was long overdue.

She lost her husband, brother-in-law and two brothers in the massacre and now lives as a refugee with her three children and thousands of other survivors in Tuzla, some 75 kilometres (50 miles) north of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.

"I hope he will help us, but with real help and not like the kind they gave us in 1995," she said.

Avdo Smajlovic, a 57-year-old man who lost a leg and a son during the civil war, said he had hopes of returning to Srebrenica but had heard no promises when he met Mr Kok.

"They only said that they will do their best through the international community," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Thorpe
"The tragedy of Srebrenica continues to haunt Western Europe"
See also:

10 Apr 02 | Europe
10 Apr 02 | Europe
02 Aug 01 | Europe
17 May 02 | Europe
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