Balkan countries launch own "Stability Pact"

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SARAJEVO, Oct 10 (Reuters) Balkan countries today set up a new regional council to replace the international initiative which helped rebuild the region after a decade of bloody interethnic wars.

Erhard Busek, special coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe whose mandate ends in mid-2008, said the region is now mature enough to cooperate without international involvement.

''Countries of the region will now take over the responsibility for themselves and it's up to them now to make decisions,'' Busek told a news conference in Sarajevo, the headquarter of the new Regional Cooperation Council (RCC).

The RCC, which will be funded by the European Commission, will coordinate activities including the improvement of the business and investment climate, free trade, cooperation in the energy sector and fighting organised crime and corruption.

''This is the most important instrument of coordination and cooperation throughout the South Eastern Europe,'' said Busek.

The Stability Pact involves countries of the Balkan region as well as the European Union, the United States, Russia and other countries and international institutions.

REUTERS PD RK1916

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