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Mediators Amending U.N. Mandate in Croatia, Official Says

February 14, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ International mediators may revamp the mandate of the U.N. force in Croatia, which included disarming the Serbs and reintegrating them into Croatia, to induce President Franjo Tudjman not to expel the peacekeepers, a senior German diplomat says.

A compromise on the fate of the U.N. buffer force could defuse growing tensions between government forces and Serb rebels and allay fears of renewed warfare in the former Yugoslav republic.

``A withdrawal of UNPROFOR would be a disaster for the reputation of the U.N. It would be a disaster for the crisis on the ground. It would be an all-out war,″ Klaus-Peter Klaiber, deputy director of the German foreign ministry, said Monday.

UNPROFOR is the acronym for the U.N. Protection Force, which has monitored a tenuous cease-fire between Croatian forces and ethnic Serbs since early 1992. The two sides had accepted an international peace plan that ended six months of fighting during which the Serbs occupied almost a third of Croatia.

In January, Tudjman announced he would not allow the 12,000-man U.N. force to remain in Croatia after its term expires at the end of March.

But senior Western and U.N. officials warned Tudjman that expelling the U.N. troops could lead to a new war that would draw in the heavily armed Yugoslav army on the side of the Croatian Serbs.

In an effort to avert the looming crisis, an international mediation group consisting of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States is considering whether to amend the U.N. mandate to address Croatia’s objections, Klaiber said.

``The mediators are thinking of making a specific new offer to Mr. Tudjman to possibly maintain UNPROFOR with a slightly or greatly different kind of mandate,″ he said.

Klaiber would not specify how the mandate might be reconfigured or whether it could be made acceptable to the Serbs, who oppose a return to Croatian rule.

Croatian leaders blame the United Nations for failing to fulfill its original mandate. Besides disarming the Serbs and reintegrating them into Croatia, it called for opening communications, railroads and oil pipelines through the Serb-held regions of Croatia; returning refugees; and reintegrating Serb-held regions into Croatia politically and economically.

U.N. withdrawal would not restart the war, Croatian leaders contend, but it would deprive the Croatian Serbs of hundreds of millions of dollars spent locally by the peacekeepers, putting added economic pressure on the rebels.

On Friday, Tudjman indicated he would be willing to accept ``some sort of international presence″ if it would ease the reintegration of Serb-held territory.

``UNPROFOR in its present form is finished,″ commented Petar Sarcevic, Croatia’s ambassador to Washington. ``But a new U.N. force to control the borders and monitor human rights standards could be acceptable.″

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