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Yugoslavia: Serb Funeral Postponed; Red Cross Visits Albanian Detainees

Pristina, 26 July 1999 (RFE/RL) - The funeral of 14 Serbs massacred last week was today postponed to allow time for completing autopsies. A memorial service initially scheduled to take place today was also postponed. The 14 Serb victims were killed Friday as they worked in fields near the predominantly Serb village of Gracko. Meanwhile, an official with the International Committee of the Red Cross says his organization has visited most of the 2,000 Kosovo Albanians listed as being held by Serb authorities. Pierre Kraehenbuehl, the head of the Balkans operation at ICRC headquarters in Geneva, didn't comment on what condition the prisoners were in. He says the Red Cross isn't yet able to estimate the overall number of people missing.

The Belgrade government provided the ICRC with about 2,000 names of people detained in Kosovo during fighting between Serbs and ethnic Albanians. Belgrade released 166 prisoners late last month.

Kraehenbuehl says the ICRC has no news of some 140 Serbs reported as missing since last year and hopes to follow up with the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Concerning the funeral for the Serb dead, Louis Garneau, spokesman for the Kosovo peacekeeping force (KFOR), said in Pristina that none of the bodies would be released for burial.

Garneau also said that 400 KFOR troops, backed by armored vehicles and helicopters, would eventually be deployed to provide security at the funeral. Ceremonies are to be conducted by Serb Orthodox priests.

General Michael Jackson, commander of the peacekeeping troops, has rejected claims that the killing of the Serb farmers show his troops are failing to do their jobs. Jackson said in a broadcast interview today that critics must remember what Kosovo was like before the international peacekeepers took over earlier this year.

Jackson said what happened was a tragedy, but added that progress has been made in the province toward peace and security. He said the return of 750,000 refugees was a measure of what had been achieved.

Meanwhile, UN war crimes prosecutors at the Hague said today that Croat President Franjo Tudjman was ultimately responsible for Croat repression of Bosnian Muslims during the 1992-1995 civil war in Bosnia.

Prosecutor Gregory Kehoe told the tribunal the repression had followed the plan developed by Tudjman and his associates. Kehoe said the goal was to remove the Muslims from Lasva Valley in central Bosnia and ultimately to annex the territory into Croatia.

Kehoe spoke at the trial of Bosnian Croat General Tihomir Blaskic, who had commanded Bosnian Croat forces in the valley. Blaskic is charged with 20 counts of crimes against humanity, violations of the laws of customs of war and grave breaches of the Geneva conventions.

Kehoe said Blaskic bears responsibility for crimes committed by his subordinates, but ultimate blame lay with Tudjman, late self-styled Bosnian Croat president Mate Boban and his deputy Dario Kordic.