Serbo-Croat clashes rage despite federal cease-fire order


BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Clashes raged in Croatia Saturday despite a cease-fire order by the federal leadership and Yugoslav President Stjepan Mesic, a Croat, warned there could no peace while federal troops side with rebel Serbs in battles with Croatian regular forces.

A three-person European Community delegation, meanwhile, met feuding leaders of Yugoslavia's three major republics -- Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia -- as well as federal leaders to try to stop the violence that has claimed at least 300 lives in three months.


Hans van den Broek, foreign minister of the Netherlands and head of the ED group, described morning talks with the Slovenian leadership, including President Milan Kucan, as 'very efficient and successful.' The group then moved on to Belgrade to meet with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and federal Foreign Minister Budimir Loncar.

The EC representative stressed the most important task is to create conditions for a negotiated ceasefire in Croatia, after which EC observers could start monitoring the situation.

Commenting on events in Croatia, Kucan said a ceasefire is still possible but only if all parties issue guarantees, the Yugoslav agency Tanjug said.

'No EC mission is possible without a cease-fire,' he said.


The three EC foreign ministers were to continue their mission Sunday, possibly on the island of Brioni, where another EC trio hammered out a truce with Yugoslav leaders last month calling on Croatia and Slovenia to freeze their moves toward the independence they declared June 25.

The assembly of Croatia, meeting in Zagreb 250 miles west of Belgrade, Saturday approved the new government of Prime Minister Franjo Greguric. Fearing civil war, they granted the new government broad powers to rule by decree when the assembly is not in session or unable to convene.

The law will be in force 'for a maximum of one year or until the next regular session of the assembly,' according to the resolution.

The government has 27 members and two ministers, for information and tourism, are still to be named.

The government included 11 members of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union, whose chairman is hardline nationalist President Franjo Tudjman. Seven members were non-party officials and the rest were members of opposition parties.

The new government appeared to have been fully under control of Tudjman, as all key posts were kept by his party.

The EC ministers were to visit the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana on Saturday and then travel to Belgrade. The foreign ministers came to the country twice in June, brokering an agreement that brought an end to weeklong fighting between Slovenian militia and federal troops and mandated a three-month moratorium on June 25 independence declarations by Slovenia and Croatia to allow for negotiations.


Croatia's 600,000 Serbs fear persecution if the republic secedes, and are resisting the inclusion of their enclaves in Tudjman's independence drive.

In a related development, Tudjman Saturday accepted the resignation of Martin Spegelj, a controversial army general who was involved in illegal arms imports some nine months ago. Zagreb radio said Spegelj resigned as head of the Croatian 'crisis committee' of the chief of the Croatian National Guard, the embryo of the republic's army, for 'health reasons.'

Spegelj, who is being sought by the Yugoslav army under charges of allegedly plotting an armed insurrection in Croatia against the Serb- dominated federal army, was appointed chief of the National Guard a month ago and lost his job of defense minister.

The officials of the secessionist republic of Croatia said at least two security forces members were killed Saturday in clashes in Serb- dominated encalves in Croatia.

One member of the Croatian National Guard was killed and two others were wounded in Krusevo, a Croatian village east of the central Adriatic coastal town of Zadar, as rebel Serbs kept on firing from mortars at the village's police station, state-run Zagreb radio said.

Serbs in the Borovo Selo village at Vukovar, 80 miles northwest of Belgrade, fired overnight about 70 mortar rounds at the nearby Borovo Naselje and killed one Croatian policeman and wounded two others. At least three houses were damaged during the mortar attack which lasted for three hours, Croatian officials said.


Mesic, who represents Croatia in the Yugoslav state eight-member presidency, flew to the Croatian capital of Zagreb from Belgrade where he presided over a session of the collective head of state early Saturday. In his address to the Croatian legislature, Mesic accused the rival republic of Serbia of aggression against strife-torn Croatia.

In its statement, the Federal Presidency said it 'demands that in the republic of Croatia, all armed conflicts and other activities that endanger peace and security of citizens and their property are immediately and unconditionally stopped, as an essential precondition for a democratic dialogue on resolving the Yugoslav crisis.'

But Mesic, in his report to the assembly, complained the body rejected his proposals, including that federal troops withdraw to barracks in Croatia and that Yugoslav air force jets and helicopters stop flying 'terrifying missions' over Croatian towns and villages.

'As long as the Yugoslav people's army stays out of barracks and as long as it is a shield for (Serb) terrorists, there will be no peace,' he declared.

The crisis, sparked off by an insurrection of the republic's Serbian minority, was to have been debated for a second day Friday by the Croatian Assembly. But the session was postponed until Saturday amid an apparent feud within the ruling Croatian Democratic Union between advocates of a declaration of war and supporters of coalition with the Serbs.


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