Bosnian Serb entity picks woman to lead new government

Bosnia's Serb entity on Tuesday picked its first female leader as it installed a new government that is hoped to scoop it out of the financial crisis that prompted the former coalition to resign.

Zeljka Cvijanovic, 45, replaces outgoing prime minister Aleksandar Dzombic and is the first woman to lead the government since the US-brokered Dayton agreements ended the more than three-year long Bosnian war in 1995.

The Dayton accords divided Bosnia into two semi-independent entities: the Serbs' Republika Srpska (RS) and the Muslim-Croat Federation.

"We have formed this government under very complex financial conditions," Cvijanovic told the RS lawmakers in the northern city of Banja Luka who elected her.

"This government will carry out the necessary reforms to improve the business environment and convince all potential investors that their investments will be safe here."

Dzombic and his cabinet resigned last month after not having reached a set of economic goals faced with the impact of the global financial crisis and an increase of the unemployment rate in the country.

The Bosnian economy plunged into a recession last year, but official data have yet to be released.

Some 42 percent of the active working population in Bosnia, a Balkan country of 3.8 million people, are unemployed.

In her new cabinet, Cvijanovic -- an English teacher who is pro-Europe -- replaced six of the outgoing government's ministers.