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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 September, 2004, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Over a million Bosnians back home
Bosnian Muslim woman Mevlida Osmanovic with sons by a destroyed house near Bratunac, north of Sarajevo
Many Bosnian Muslims have gone back to rebuild their lives
The United Nations says more than a million people displaced by the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina in the early 1990s have now returned home.

A spokesman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), Peter Kessler, described it as a "significant milestone".

Nearly 500,000 of the returnees went back to areas where they were ethnically in a minority - especially Muslims, but also Serbs and Croats.

Mr Kessler stressed that "enormous obstacles" still had to be tackled.

The problems on the ground include restoring infrastructure, education and healthcare, rebuilding homes and simply finding jobs.

More than two million people fled their homes during the war.

"Nevertheless, this return movement over the last nine years has been important because it demonstrates that when the international community is prepared to put money into these operations refugees can go back - and can go back in sure and stable ways," Mr Kessler told the BBC's The World Today programme.

Scattered exiles

The returnees included more than 560,000 displaced and 440,000 who came back from abroad, he said.

"We think there are another half a million people who may go back, but on top of that indeed there are hundreds of thousands more who have built new lives in countries where they have integrated."

Nato deployed some 60,000 troops to Bosnia at the end of the 1992-95 war, but its troop presence has shrunk to just 7,000. It will hand over peacekeeping duties to an untested European Union force at the end of the year.

Some observers warn that the country remains a "powder keg," with ethnic tensions still running high in many areas.

The UNHCR says nearly 75% of the returnees went back to the mainly Muslim-Croat entity - the Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina, and 25% to Republika Srpska.

Some 20,000 have returned to Brcko District, which is administered separately from the two entities enshrined in the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement.

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