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Tens of Thousands of Parents Call for Sons’ Return from Army

August 30, 1991

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Tens of thousands of Yugoslavs have protested the ethnic war that threatens to pit brother against brother, while weeping mothers demanded the federal army release their sons from uniform.

In the Croatian capital of Zagreb, 20,000 people took to the streets Thursday to call for peace and protest the army’s involvement in fighting between Croatian security forces and Serb rebels in Croatia.

About 10,000 mothers of conscript sons, some chanting ″Serb army get out 3/8″ besieged a federal army building in Osijek, center of the Croatian region of Slavonia where fighting has been particularly intense.

″What is happening in our country is barbarian,″ said Dragica Naseva, a leader of an informal mother’s group from Macedonia. ″This is a senseless war. If the mothers of Yugoslavia had the power to decide, the fighting would have been over long ago.″

More than 280 people have died in fighting in Croatia since June 25, when Croatia declared independence from Yugolavia. Leaders of Croatia’s 600,000- strong Serbian minority oppose secession and demand self-determination for areas where they live if the republic leaves the Yugoslav federation.

The Yugoslav People’s army says it is keeping the two sides apart. However, a senior European envoy on Thursday accused it of siding with the Serbian rebels.

In Osijek Thursday, Gen. Marko Negovanovic, a member of the General Staff and head of military intelligence, tried for an hour to address the noisy crowd but was shouted down and heckled constantly.

Members of the crowd said they wanted to talk to federal Defense Minister Veljko Kadijevic and Chief of Staff Blagoje Adzic. As midnight approached the parents were still waiting for the two to appear.

″Come out, you cowards 3/8,″ they shouted. ″Serb army get out 3/8 March back to Serbia 3/8″

″I have one son in the army and one in the (Croatian national) guard,″ Veronika Sakic said.

She said her 19-year-old son had completed half his 12-month stint in the Yugoslav army. Her other son, 26, was wounded in the leg last weekend during clashes between his volunteer guard unit and federal troops around Vukovar, a beleaguered town southeast of Osijek.

″You see what a dreadful war this is,″ said a sobbing Mrs. Sakic, wiping tears from her weather-beaten face. ″Tomorrow they could be fighting, shooting at each other, brother against brother.″

More than 50 busloads of mothers from Croatia and the republics of Macedonia and Bosnia-Hercegovina traveled to Belgrade to petition army generals to release their sons from service.

Initially Bosnia and Macedonia were neutral in the conflict between Croatia and Serbia, but increasingly they have leaned toward Croatia.

Angry women, wearing badges saying ″Give Us Back Our Sons″ over a dove symbol, said police harassed them as soon as they entered Serbia.

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