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Exiled prince vows to return to Belgrade

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Crown Prince Alexander, head of the exiled Yugoslav royal family, ended his first visit to Yugoslavia Monday but vowed to return and continue to press a peace initiative for his war-ravaged country.

In a statement read at the Belgrade airport before returning to London, the prince said he planned to lay out his proposal for a peace conference to be convened in Geneva in a letter to the president of the European Community, Jacques Delors.

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The prince left Belgrade airport on a special charter flight for Zurich, accompanied by his wife, Princess Katherine, and his three sons, hours after offering to serve his country as 'an ambassador for peace.'

During his emotional two-day homecoming, the 46-year-old businessman and former British army officer presented a plan to convene a peace conference that would widen the base of the current EC-brokered peace talks, which have failed to halt the bloody fighting in the northwestern republic of Croatia.

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The prince proposed that leaders of opposition parties, heads of the country's main churches, including Serbian Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Muslim leaders, and the country's most prominent intellectuals, be invited alongside the political heads of the six republics to such a conference.

The failure of several EC agreements to bring an end to the fighting in Croatia has called into doubt the degree of control held by the political leaders over the groups of reservists, irregulars and army troops fighting in embattled Croatia.

Alexander proposed the conference be chaired by former British foreign secretary Lord Carrington.

Observers said the prince's chances of exerting influence over the warring sides for peace were slim, as he is a Serbian. Despite his insistence he was above political factions, crowds waving Serbian flags and shouting pro-Serbian slogans gave a distinctly partisan flavor to his return.

But Dobrosav Vejzovic, the first assistant foreign minister of the Serbian government, said the thought Serbia might consider installing Alexander as king did not even occur to him until Sunday night, after hearing crowds call for him to stay on.

He said the government had considered the visit a private one and it had provided no special services, except for the use of a state car.

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'It's realistic for him to come privately because no one is preventing him from coming, but I wouldn't think any sort of majority would want a return of the monarchy,' he said.

'I understand that for about a month the opposition parties who organized his visit were doing their best to encourage supporters from all over Serbia to come and cheer,' he added.

Meanwhile, the prince's uncle, Prince Tomislav arrived Sunday night in Belgrade for a month-long visit, returning with the same passport he held 50 years ago when he was last in Yugoslavia, the national news agency Tanjug reported.

Tomislav went Monday to the royal family's ancestral crypt in St. George's Church, where his father Alexander I is buried.

Formerly a church before the communist regime took over in 1945, the ornate Orthodox-style building walled with mosaics of saints and religious figures, is currently a museum of the Karadjordje dynasty.

But in a special service Tuesday, the leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church is scheduled to bless the building and to restore it as a church.

In his statement, Alexander said, 'On my return to London I will send a letter to the president of the European Community in which I will lay out my proposals for a solution to the problems that Yugoslavia faces.'

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The prince's arrival in Belgrade, where he was welcomed by cheering crowds of thousands wherever he appeared, was overshadowed by the intense fighting in Croatia between Croats and Serbs backed by the Serbian-led federal army.

All-out war between a desperate Croatia and the well-armed Yugoslav federal military seemed underway Sunday as the Oct. 7 deadline for Croatian independence approached.

The federal military bombarded towns and villages up and down the republic, while the Croatian leadership called for volunteers and began handing out weapons and uniforms.

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