Washington, 24 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Croatia's Deputy Prime Minister Jure Radic says NATO must not stop halfway in the fight against the regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Radic made the comment on Friday at a press conference in Washington. He said now is the time to "crush Milosevic" who, in his words, has caused much harm to Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and others in the region.
But Radic warned that it would be very difficult for NATO to achieve its goals in Yugoslavia without the use of ground forces.
"I am saying this is possible because our own experience was that we were able to liberate, very efficiently, our own territory within five days and defeat the Yugoslav army."
Radic reiterated Croatia's full support for NATO actions in the region, stressing his nation remains committed to assist in the humanitarian effort as much as possible. But he said it should be remembered that Croatia is still coping with more than 120,000 refugees and displaced persons.
Radic, who is also the Minister for Reconstruction and Development of Croatia, says his country already has some 3,000 Kosovar refugees inside its territory, and is willing to take another 2,000.
He said the main purpose of his current visit to Washington was to solicit aid for these refugees, as well as the repatriation of other displaced persons now in the country. During a meeting Thursday with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Refugees and Migration Julia Taft, the U.S. pledged five million dollars in aid, he said.
Radic said so far, 58,340 persons have been granted documents to re-enter Croatia from Yugoslavia and Republika Srpska in Bosnia. He said the total number of submitted requests for return, either through Croatian embassies, consulates or international organizations, is approximately 73,000. He says Croatia expects these requests to be processed by the end of this year.
Radic also said that Croatia remains dedicated to creating a democratic nation and said it is taking specific steps to address its problems. He made the remarks in reaction to OSCE envoy Tim Guldimann's comment in Zagreb Wednesday that Croatia lacks the political will to pursue democracy.
"I would like to say that we are very intensively working on a new electoral law. Not because of the pressures that are coming from the international community, but rather because of our own democratic commitment. I must say, there are negotiations going on now between the government and the opposition parties. We hope to achieve a political consensus of all forces in Croatia very soon. And I'm sure this will be very beneficial to our cooperation with the European Union and the U.S."
In regards to freedom of the press, Radic said Croatia is "committed and determined" to follow the highest international standards regarding a free media, and intends to enact laws that are in compliance with all other European laws and the democratic countries in Central Europe.