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Bosnian Croats Move on Barracks

April 5, 2001

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Stepping up efforts to create a separate Croat ministate in Bosnia, ethnic Croat nationalists on Thursday moved to take control of two army barracks, challenging the authority of the Muslim-Croat government, officials said.

The peace agreement that ended the 1992-95 Bosnian war divided the country into two ministates: a Muslim-Croat federation and a Serb republic. The Croat Democratic Union, HDZ, last month declared its intention to break away and form a third ministate for Bosnian Croats.

Col. Josip Stojak, a former hard-line Bosnian Croat commander who deserted his barracks in central Bosnia last week, returned Thursday with Croat war veterans and challenged Col. Marinko Palavra, installed by the pro-Western Muslim-Croat federation government in Sarajevo.

Seven ministers in the Muslim-Croat government _ four of them Bosnian Croats _ have formed a special coordination body to halt breakaway attempts, the Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz reported Thursday.

Palavra said NATO-led peacekeepers were mediating between him and Stojak over control of the barracks in the central Bosnian town of Busovaca, 35 miles west of Sarajevo.

Another barracks in the nearby town of Vitez was taken over by the hard-liners Thursday morning, Palavra claimed.

Hard-line police officials in two regional police headquarters in the south said Wednesday 99 percent of the officers support the nationalists and do not recognize the government.

International police have begun interviewing police officers individually to find out what is happening, U.N. spokesman Douglas Coffman said Thursday in Sarajevo. ``We believe that the local police officers have been manipulated or coerced to sign a petition. Some of them claimed they were afraid of the HDZ and that’s why they signed it,″ Coffman said.

The United Nations previously said that whoever gets involved in politics will lose his police license.

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