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Croatian President Cancels Trip To Serbia

Prague, 17 May 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Croatian President Stipe Mesic on 16 May canceled his upcoming visit to Serbia because of a ceremony at Ravna Gora the previous weekend honoring former Serbian royalist World War II General Draza Mihailovic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported.

Mesic's office said in a statement that he objects that the "gathering had the support of the Serbian authorities," which is an apparent reference to the presence there of Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, who also heads the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO).

In response, Draskovic's ministry said in a statement that "historical facts [should] not be an obstacle to relations.... Let us look to the future...[and] not make our relations with our neighbors conditional on their attitude towards past events."

Mihailovic is widely regarded by Serbs loyal to the memory of Josip Broz Tito's Partisans and by non-Serbs as an Axis collaborator or war criminal. Mihailovic nonetheless has a following among Serbs of the monarchist and Serbian Orthodox tradition, many of whom still regard him as a hero, albeit a tragic one.

U.S. authorities recently presented Mihailovic's daughter in Belgrade with a medal awarded posthumously to him by President Harry S. Truman in 1948 in recognition of Mihailovic's Chetnik forces having saved over 500 downed U.S. airmen and other citizens. The Croatian Foreign Ministry protested the awarding of the medal, Croatia's Hina news agency reported.

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