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Sporadic fighting in Croatia as Germany announces recognition

By
JONATHAN S. LANDAY

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- The communist government of Serbia asked its legislature Monday to recognize a new Serbian republic in half of war-torn Croatia, pushing ahead with plans to forge a new Yugoslav federation in which 8.3 million Serbs would be the dominant ethnic group.

Serbia also warned that the Serb-dominated federal army could be called on to enforce the annexation to the new federation o&! erbian encla6%s *o Croatia and th neighboring ethnic tinderbox of Bosnia- Hercegovina.

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In response, Bosnia-Hercegovina President Alija Izetbegovic urged the deployment by mid-January of a U.N. peace-keeping force in his republic to avert an explosion of a territorial struggle pitting pro-independence Muslims and Croats against Serbs.

Sporadic clashes were reported in eastern and central battle zones of Croatia after overnightbombardments by Serbian forces of Karlovac, 30 miles southwest of the Croatian capital of Zagreb, and three nearby towns. There were no reports of casualties.

The federal army, meanwhile, completed a withdrawal from bases in the Zagreb area, with a column of vehicles leaving a facility in the suburb of Dugo Selo bound for the military garrison town of Banja Luka in Bosnia-Hercegovina, said Renilde Steeghs, a spokeswoman for the EC monitoring mission.

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The regime of President Slobodan Milosevic introduced in the Serbian Assembly a proposed resolution that would formally recognize the so- called 'Republic of Serbian Krajina,' which was announced last Thursday by Serbian rebel leaders in west-central and eastern Croatia.

'The goverment of Serbia proposes recognition of Serbian Krajina, having in mind the freely expressed will of the Serbian people of the Serbian Republic of Krajina,' said an official announcement.

'The Serbian government is making this proposal with the wish to install strong links and cooperation between the peoples of the two republics within the framework of a common state,' it continued.

The resolution will almost certainly be approved overwhelmingly by the legislature as Milosevic's communist party controls 196 of the 250 seats. It was not known when a vote would be taken.

Western diplomats viewed the decision as a deliberate response to an announcement hours earlier of German recognition of the independence of Croatia and Slovenia, which announced their secession on June 25 because of perceived domination by Serbia, the largest republic of the collapsing Yugoslav federation.

Germany said that it would establish diplomatic ties with Croatia and Slovenija on Jan. 15, the date set by the 12-nation EC for recognizing the independence of any Yugoslav republic that seeks it and meets international standards on minority and human rights.

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In addition to Croatia and Slovenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Macedonia have decided to seek EC recognition, leaving Serbia and allied Montenegro in the wreckage of the multi-ethnic Balkan federation of 23 million founded in 1945.

The Serbian decision advances a drive by Serbia to forge around itself a truncated federation that would include Serbian areas of Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Montenegro, where the legislature was debating whether to avail itself of the EC plan.

Serbia and the Serb-dominated federal army are backing rebels of Croatia's Serbian minority in the conquest of territories through which the republic's 580,000-strong Serbian minority -- 12 percent of the population -- is scattered.

In declaring the new so-called Republic of Serbian Krajina, Serbian rebel leaders laid claim to 50 percent of Croatia's territory. With only about 30 percent of that area captured by Serbian forces since the six- month-old conflict began, the claim augured against a peaceful settlement.

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, in a televised address Sunday night, called on his forces to retake territory seized by Serbian forces.

Serbian leaders in Bosnia-Hercegovina on Saturday announced that they would also declare by Jan. 13 a Serbian republic for inclusion in the trucated Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, raising fears of a territorial struggle pitting its 1.3 million Serbs against the 1.7 million Muslims and 800,000 Croats.

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Yugoslav Vice President Branko Kostic, in an interview published Monday,warned that unless a political settlement can be reached on the division of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, the federal army would be used to secure Serbian areas for inclusion in the new federation.

'If we assess at a certain moment that finally we should begin constituting that new state community and determining its borders, there will also be the engagement of the JNA (Yugoslav Peoples Army) to safeguard those borders with all available means,' he told Narodna Armija magazine, the mouthpiece of the Serb-dominated military.

Kostic led the four pro-Serbia members of the defunct eight-man Yugoslav collective head of state in seizing control of the body on Oct. 3 with the backing of the military.

Izetbegovic, in an interview Monday with several foreign correspondents, called for the deployment before Jan. 15 of U.N. peace- keeping forces to prevent ethnic violence over the decision to secede.

'This would secure peace,' Izetbegovic said. 'It would be desireable that they come before January 14.'

The proposed deployment of U.N. troops has been ruled out for now in Croatia because of the failure of a Nov. 23 cease-fire agreement.

An 18-member U.N. observer group, however, pressed ahead with its mission to further explore the proposal, visiting areas of eastern Croatia, Tanjug said.

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