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Cablegate: Refugee Fund Helps Open Multi-Ethnic

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHVB #1495/01 3531423
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191423Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7066
INFO RUEHBW/AMEMBASSY BELGRADE 1922
RUEHVJ/AMEMBASSY SARAJEVO 0197

UNCLAS ZAGREB 001495

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR PRM: ROLSON
DEPT FOR EUR/SCE: RBALIAN
BELGRADE FOR OLSON
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PGOV HR

SUBJECT: Refugee Fund Helps Open Multi-ethnic
Seniors Home


1. SUMMARY AND COMMENT: On December 6, Ambassador
commemorated the opening of a US-funded multi-ethnic
seniors home in Siroka Rijeka near Cetingrad on the
Bosnian border. Operated by the local Islamic community,
the home offers daytime activities and services for
elderly in the community as well as food delivery
to shut-ins and assistance with other basic
needs. Clients are ethnic Bosniak, Serb, and
Croat, reflecting the area's diversity. Through
funds from PRM's Ambassador's Refugee Fund and
USAID, Post provided kitchen equipment and
central heating. At the opening, Ambassador
stressed that the home was an excellent example
of inter-ethnic cooperation and inter-religious
tolerance. The project is the most recent
illustration of close cooperation with the Muslim
community in the area. END SUMMARY AND COMMENT.

LOCAL LEADERSHIP FOSTERS RECONCILIATION

2. In attendance with Ambassador were Mufti Sevko
Omerbasic, Head of Zagreb Islamic Community
Mirsad Srebrenikovic, local Imam Azim Durmic, as
well as the deputy prefect of Karlovac County and
local mayor. National press covered the visit to the
home. In his comments, the Ambassador stressed
the importance of the home's mission of
interethnic cooperation, diversity and religious
tolerance. The community is
ethnically-mixed with a sizeable Muslim
population. The area has been spared post-war
inter-ethnic incidents, led in part by Imam
Durmic's commitment to reconciliation and
extension beyond his role of a religious leader
to that of community leader. In Vojnic
municipality, ethnic Serbs comprise 50% of the
population followed by 37% Bosniaks.

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3. Prior to the war, many residents worked across
the border near Velika Kladusa at the Agrocomerc
state-owned food processing company. Now,
however, Cetingrad Mayor Nikola Paulic explained,
unemployment rate is around 95 percent in his
town, and is one of the most pronounced problems
in the county. Unclear land ownership and
problematic privatizations have contributed to
the lack of investment. Due to lack of jobs,
most young people have moved away, leaving
predominately the elderly. The county is now
installing computers in the schools to improve
students' technical skills and build a more
competitive work force.

A HOME FOR ALL ETHNICITIES

4. The home currently offers a day facility for
40-45 elderly residents from the surrounding
three municipalities (Cetingrad, Vojnic and
Topusko) on a rotating basis. It includes a
medical unit and will soon provide residential
space for those who are unable to care for
themselves. Imam Durmic and 15 others deliver
hot meals to more than 270 shut-ins in 28
villages, the majority of whom are over 70 and
alone. In addition, staff provide other
assistance such as cleaning, chopping wood,
transport to medical appointments, etc. Durmic,
in cooperation with Caritas, secured funds for
the reconstruction from various donors including
the governments of Switzerland, Germany, and
Iran. Post's Refugee Fund purchased a kitchen
stove and washing machine; USAID funded the
heating system. Karlovac County and the
Ministry of Health and Social Welfare provided
additional funding. Lack of operating funds from
the GOC until now has prevented use of the
facility for residential purposes. Mufti
Oberbasic explained that their goals in operating
the home were to care for the elderly Muslim
residents, employ members of the local community,
and stimulate investment in areas with a Muslim
population.

GOOD RELATIONS CONTINUE WITH MUSLIM COMMUNITY

5. Post's collaboration in constructing the
senior's home continues its strong ongoing

relationship with the Bosniak community in the
region. Post began working with the community in
2002 when the Embassy began advocating both formally
and informally for the GOC to grant citizenship to
ethnic Bosniaks--largely members of the Muslim
faith-- from the Maljevac area who were denied
citizenship for more than a decade. Advocacy
included direct financial support to the Muslim
community for organizing their legal effort.
In 2003 PRM funds provided for office equipment
to the Islamic Community Center to facilitate
citizenship applications. In May 2005, the GOC
granted citizenship to members of the community.
That same year, Post sent Imam Durmic on an
International Visitors program focused on the
role of minorities in public policy. Also, EUCOM
and USAID provided funds in 2003 and 2004 for
refurbishment of the nearby Maljevac elementary school.
EUCOM funded construction materials and U.S. and
Croatian engineers rebuilt the school and
constructed a recreational area, playground,
picnic benches and spectator stands; and later
USAID provided kitchen equipment. The school has
become a community gathering point and evidence of
USG commitment to the area.
BRADTKE

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