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Croatia: President Criticizes Belgrade-Banja Luka Accord

By Ron Synovitz and Bruce Jacobs

Croatian President Stipe Mesic says that an accord signed yesterday between Yugoslavia and the Bosnian Serb entity -- Republika Srpska -- amounts to a greater Serbia policy on the part of Belgrade. Speaking at a press conference at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague yesterday, Mesic criticized the post-Milosevic leadership in Yugoslavia.

Prague, 7 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Croatian President Stipe Mesic says the cooperation treaty recently signed in Banja Luka by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic will contribute to the further destabilization of Bosnia. He said the destruction of Bosnia had been sought by ousted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in his efforts to create a greater Serbia.

"Both Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should have their relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina as a whole. We should not encourage the entities within Bosnia to get the impression that they are states. To be fair, it should be mentioned that Croatia also has an agreement on special relations with the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. But it's just a framework [accord]. Without any amendments and annexes to this framework, this agreement cannot be implemented. That's why I insist that our relations with Bosnia should be like relations with any other country -- [that is,] relations with the country as a whole, not particular parts of that country. The idea behind [both] these agreements is to connect Croat parts of Bosnia with Croatia and Serb parts of Bosnia with Serbia in order to encourage the continuation of the division of Bosnia."

Mesic also criticized radical Bosnian Croats in the Croatian Democratic Union who have threatened to create their own mini-state out of the parts of Bosnia where Croats are in the majority. The Croatian president said similar moves by Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs would mean the end of the Bosnian state. "It is our duty to support the role of the individuals among Croats in Bosnia who are not for the division of the country [that is, Bosnia-Herzegovina], to support their political stands and to strengthen them. The Croatian Democratic Union has no legal right to pretend to be the only and exclusive representative of [the] political interests of Bosnian Croats, especially when this policy is disastrous."

Mesic said that he has been encouraged by the ouster of Milosevic's regime in Yugoslavia. But he said Serbians must face up to the crimes committed by their former leadership before relations between Zagreb and Belgrade can be completely normalized.

"The departure of Milosevic is not enough. His policies have to go as well, and all those who were supporting his policy, who were creators of this policy, they have to be held responsible for their actions, and ultimately, to face the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague. Unless this happens, unless Serbia goes through a complete change and faces its history of the last 10 years, we are only going to be able to make small steps to improve our relations."

Mesic said he thinks Skopje will not need foreign intervention to help contain a conflict with ethnic-Albanian guerillas on the Macedonian border with Kosovo. But the Croatian president also urged the United Nations to move ahead with elections in Kosovo as soon as possible.

"With regard to Kosovo, I think it would be good to hold elections as soon as possible because they will provide official and legitimate partners in negotiations with the government in Belgrade with regard to the future status of Kosovo. Extremists on both sides should be suppressed and the presence of the international community should be reinforced and needed for a few more years."