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Russia opposed to outside pressure on Bosnia over constitutional

MOSCOW-Russia's foreign minister told the top international official in Bosnia on Friday that Moscow opposes outside pressure over constitutional changes that would strengthen central government in the ethnically-divided nation, the Foreign Ministry said.

"It was underlined that decisions on the amendment of the Dayton Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina should be based on compromise by the Bosnian parties and not on the predominance of external factors," a ministry statement said after Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met Christian Schwarz-Schilling.

Lavrov stressed that all of Bosnia's ethnic groups should be engaged in the effort to rebuild the country after years of ethnic conflict, underscoring Russia's long-running support of the ethnic Serbs in Bosnia.

"We believe it should be done gradually, giving careful consideration to every step," Lavrov said of the process, according to Russian news agencies. He added that it was necessary to "follow the fundamental principles of the Dayton Accord, and to respect equally all peoples' interests." The 1995 Dayton peace accord carved the country into two mini-states, one for the Bosnian Serbs, the other shared by Bosnia's Bosniaks and Croats.

The separate states have also had their own police forces, and efforts to unite them under one command have been tough. Bosnia's leaders have been under international pressure to return power to a streamlined central government as a way to unify the country and further integrate it into the rest of Europe. The EU has told the country it has virtually no chance of future membership in the bloc with its current political system.

But Bosnian lawmakers in April rejected proposed constitutional changes aimed at erasing some of the ethnic divisions that resulted from the country's 1992-1995 civil war that killed tens of thousands. The amendments would have replaced Bosnia's three-member presidency with a single president and strengthened the central government, which has held little authority since the accord that ended the war divided the territory into two, largely autonomous ethnic mini-states.

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