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Army abandons more facilities as truce violations continue

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- The European Community and Bosnia- Hercegovina agreed to the deployment of EC observers in the republic to avert a spillover of the ethnic war from Croatia, where a truce held for a fifth day amid scattered clashes.

The accord Friday on the stationing of EC monitors was reached in talks held in the capital of Sarajevo between the republic leadership, members of its Muslim, Serbian and Croatian communities, and EC special envoy Henri Weynaendts of the Netherlands.

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Weynaendts said the decision was intended to reduce tensions and restore confidence that has been dangerously shaken by a growth in ethnic militias and developments linked to the Serb-Croat fighting in neighboring Croatia.

EC observers were first sent to Yugoslavia in July to monitor the withdrawal of the federal army from the independence-minded Slovenian Republic after a week of clashes, and are now deployed in Croatia to oversee compliance with a cease-fire mandated under a community-brokered peace plan.

With its mix of majority Muslims and large Orthodox Serbian and Roman Catholic Croatian communities, Bosnia-Hercegovina is regarded as an ethnic time bomb whose detonation would end any hope of containing violence tearing at the six-republic Yugoslav federation.

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In Croatia, meanwhile, state-run radio in the Adriatic port of Split said that federal troops made an amphibious landing on the island of Korcula at Privela Bay, the site of a military barracks and weapons depot captured in fighting last week by Croatian forces.

It gave no further details, and there was no immediate confirmation from the military of the landing, which would be a violation of the cease-fire accord signed Sunday by nationalist Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, communist Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Gen. Veljko Kadijevic, the federal defense minister.

There were no major clashes reported in the main crisis areas of Croatia on the fifth day of the truce between Croatian forces, the Serb- dominated Yugoslav army and rebels of Croatia's Serbian minority fighting with Milosevic's support and encouragement against the inclusion of their areas in a June 25 independence declaration by Tudjman's regime.

But sporadic violations continued in central Croatia and around the towns of Vukovar and Osijek in eastern Slavonija, an ethnically mixed region bordering Serbia that has been convulsed by some of the worst fighting of the war.

In another move to preserve the truce, federal troops and their families Friday abandoned an army base in Sinj, near Split, and a nearby training facility, a military statement said.

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The cease-fire accord mandated an end to Croatian attacks on army bases and a restoration of food, water and electricity supplies in exchange for an end to federal military offensive operations and movements.

Hundreds, perhaps several thousands of people have been killed since Croatia declared independence to escape what it said was domination by Serbia, home to most of Yugoslavia's 8.3 million Christian Orthodox Serbs.

Croatia says Milosevic instigated the Serbian insurrection and is guiding the rebel Serbs and the federal military in a campaign to seize parts of its territory to create a 'Great Serbia.'

Croatia's Serbs -- about 12 percent of the republic's population -- fear a resumption of the persecution they suffered during World War II under a Nazi-installed regime that sought to create a pure Roman Catholic state.

Despite the lull in major battles, the war of words continued to rage, with a senior member of the Croatian ruling party saying most of Croatia's 580,000 Serbs would be forced to leave the republic once it won independence.

'Either Croats or Serbs will survive. There is no third possibility, ' Croatian Assembly Vice President Vladimir Seks, a hard-line member of the nationalist Croatian Democratic Union, said in an interview in the Zagreb-based Globus magazine.

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'Serbs will not survive, except in rare examples. The big majority will have to leave this territory if Croatia wins, and I believe it will,' Seks said. 'I think that is the collective feeling of Croats, which I share.'

Meanwhile, the chief of the Yugoslav army medical corps denied allegations by Yugoslavia's Croatian president, Stjepan Mesic, that federal troops had used poison gas against Croatian forces.

'The Yugoslav People's Army has no poison gas nor any munitions with which to launch it,' Col. Gen. Vladimir Vojvodic told a Belgrade news conference. 'Our soldiers in Croatia do not even have gas masks.'

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