ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ Croatia's president on Tuesday replaced the head of the military counterintelligence service, removing a mainstay of late President Franjo Tudjman's rule.

President Stipe Mesic ousted Zarko Pesa and appointed Davor Biscan to head the Security-Information Service, or SIS, which functions within the defense ministry.

Tudjman's critics had claimed for years that he and his associates were using the SIS and other intelligence agencies to maintain their grip on power and denounce their political opponents. Independent media have often reported alleged abuses of secret services by Tudjman's party.

In 1998, Parliament investigated allegations that one of Tudjman's aides used the military counterintelligence service to try to tarnish the image of Tudjman's opponents in the media. The investigation found no proof of the allegations.

Last year, the weekly Nacional accused another intelligence agency of using compromising files to make sure soccer referees ruled in favor of Tudjman's favorite team in the national soccer league championship.

Tudjman died in December after leading Croatia for almost a decade. Mesic succeeded him in February, a month after the pro-Western coalition won parliamentary elections and ended Tudjman's party's rule.