WASHINGTON, April 3 -- Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, whose plane crashed Wednesday near the port city of Dubrovnik, had traveled to Bosnia and Croatia accompanied by U.S. chief executives to promote U.S. business investment to rebuild the Balkans after four years of war. Commerce spokeswoman Maria Cardona said Brown was one day into his mission when his plane went down. Earlier, he had breakfast with U.S. troops in Tuzla, Bosnia, and met with the mayors of Tuzla and Zvornik. He was to proceed to Zagreb, Croatia where he was to meet with business leaders and address a dinner hosted by Croatian Prime Minister Matesa. 'I am optimistic that our discussions will go a long way to furthering peace and prosperity in the Balkans and serve as a gateway to expanded U.S. commercial presence in the region,' Brown had said of his trip. Cardona said 'around 10 people' from the department had accompanied the secretary and that he had invited executives from 12 U.S. firms in transportation, tourism, energy, telecommunications and financial services, including Bechtel Corp., Harza Engineering Co., Enron Development Corp., ABB Inc. and Riggs International Banking Corp. Cardona was not sure if any of the Commerce employees were on the plane that crashed. U.S. officials said those traveling aboard Brown's plane included: --Donald Terner, President, Bridge Housing Corp., San Francisco. --Leonard Pieroni, Chairman, Parsons Corp., Chicago. --Claudio Clia, Chairman, Air and Water Technologies Corp., Sommerville, N.Y. --Barry L. Conrad, Chairman, Barrington Group. --Paul Cushman III, Chairman, Riggs International Banking Corp. --Walter Murphy, Executive, AT&T Corp. executive.
--John A. Scoville, Chairman, Harza Engineering Co., Chicago. --Robert Donovan, President, ABB Inc., Norwalk, Conn. --R.A. Whittaker, Vice President, Foster Wheeler Corp., Clinton, N.J. --Nathaniel Nash, Reporter, New York Times. Others who were invited on the trip but did not join Brown included Boeing Commercial Airplane Group President Ronald B. Woodard of Renton, Wash.; Enron Development Corp. President Joseph W. Sutton of Houston, and Northwest Airlines co-Chairman Alfred A. Checchi of St. Paul, Minn. Work around the Commerce Department appeared to come to a standstill during the day as employees huddled around televisions and radios or just talked in small groups looking for information. The mood was somber and confused. Cardona said, 'We're trying to be controlled. We're very concerned. We're trying to be positive.' Commerce said the trip was to introduce U.S. businesses to opportunities in the Balkans stemming from the $5.1 billion reconstruction aid by the United States, European Union and international financial institutions. Brown said that 'trade, not aid' was key to the region's recovery from the war's devastation. 'U.S. business will be at the forefront of efforts to support peace, democracy and economic stability' in Bosnia and the Balkans, he said. Originally, Brown planned to meet in Sarajevo on Thursday with international financial officials, followed by meetings with Federation President Zubak and Prime Minister Muratovic. Also in Sarajevo, Brown anticipated gathering with students from the Soros Foundation Business school. Returning to Zagreb on Friday, Brown was to meet with Croatian economic ministers before returning to Washington on Saturday. Before heading to Bosnia, Brown attended the jobs conference of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations on Monday and Tuesday in Lille, France. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Everett Ehrlich accompanied Brown along with other administration officials, but did not proceed on to Bosnia, Cardona said.