Harsh words mar Croatia-Italy relations

Feb. 14, 2007 at 2:30 PM

BRUSSELS, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Diplomatic tensions between Italy and Croatia are running high, with an EU envoy scolding Croatia's president for criticizing the Italian head of state.

Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, in Brussels Wednesday described as inappropriate the words Croatian President Stjepan Mesic used commenting on Italian President Giorgio Napolitano's statement about Italian victims during World War II, Croatia's HINA news agency reported.

Asked by a reporter whether Napolitano's reference of "bloodthirsty hatred" and a "Slavic annexation plan" to Yugoslav communist partisans should be considered unsuitable, Hansen said she had no comment.

An exchange of harsh words began Saturday when Napolitano referred to the killing of about 10,000 Italians by Yugoslav partisans during the 1943-45 occupation of the Istria peninsula, now part of Croatia and Slovenia.

Reacting to Napolitano's speech, Mesic said it included "elements of racism ... and a desire for political revenge."

Mesic admitted the Yugoslav communist forces committed atrocities but they were in response to crimes carried out by Italian fascists in Istria and Dalmatia. He suggested Italy and Croatia should form a commission to explore crimes the two sides committed during and after World War II.

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