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Workers Shore Up Croatian Dam With Rocks

January 30, 1993

SPLIT, Croatia (AP) _ Tens of thousands of people spent an uneasy night downstream from a sabotaged dam, hoping that a day of fevered labor would keep the structure from collapsing.

On Friday, water gushed from holes blasted by Serb troops as they retreated from Croatian forces fighting to take back land seized in the 1991 civil war. But a defense official said emergency work to shore up the Peruca dam had lessened the danger to nearby villages.

Observers had feared that the Croatian offensive, which began last week, would undermine the chances for peace in another breakaway Yugoslav republic, neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina. Those fears came true today when peace talks in Geneva collapsed.

As the main negotiators pronounced the talks dead, a new round of mortar attacks erupted in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital.

In Croatia, meanwhile, an army spokesman in the town of Split confirmed that Serbs and Croats declared a cease-fire Friday night around the Peruca dam.

Expert Petar Stojic visited the dam 22 miles north of the central Adriatic port of Split and said the structure was damaged along its entire 980-foot length. Workers used tons of rocks Friday to plug holes and shore up the dam.

A sluice at the bottom of the dam in Croatia was opened so the reservoir could begin draining and reduce the pressure on the structure, a Croatian defense official, said today.

The defense official, reached by telephone in Sinj, five miles downstream, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Many downstream villages have already been deserted because of the fighting.

The dam has not produced power since it was heavily damaged during the war. But power stations downstream that generate electricity for part of the Dalmatian coast could be wrecked if the dam collapses.

Serbs had rigged the dam with explosives after capturing it in the six- month war that broke out after Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia.

Croatian soldiers took the dam back Thursday after fighting forced about 80 U.N. peacekeepers to abandon it. Croatians also recaptured an airport and a bridge linking northern and southern Croatia near Zadar.

Why the Croats decided to break a cease-fire in the area remained unclear. But Croatian President Franjo Tudjman is under pressure to win back lost territory, and his party faces local elections on Feb. 7.

The resumption of widespread fighting in Croatia has prompted U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to consider withdrawing the 16,000 U.N. peacekeepers from Croatia.

Observers fear that if U.N. troops were to pull out of Croatia, the war in former Yugoslavia could spread throughout the Balkans.

Mediators at the Geneva talks on Bosnia had given the warring parties until today to sign a three-point peace package. U.N. envoy Cyrus Vance said Bosnia’s Croats agreed to the entire plan, while Bosnian Serbs and the Muslim- led Bosnian government rejected various aspects.

Vance’s European Community counterpart, Lord Owen, said: ″We will now take the dispute to the Security Council,″ which could impose the settlement by ″political, economic or military″ means.

Vance and Owen will report to the Security Council next week.

More than 18,000 people have died in 10 months of war between rebel Serbs, the Muslim-led government and Bosnian Croats. War erupted after Serbs, backed by Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, took up arms to crush Muslims and Croats who voted for an independent state.

Mortars slammed into Sarajevo throughout the day. One shell landed near the front door of the presidency building, wounding two presidential guards and at least 10 other people, witnesses and hospital officials said. Initial reports that a woman had died could not be immediately confirmed.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Friday the United States asked Ukraine to stop fuel shipments to Serbia, widely blamed for inciting the Bosnian war.

″They’ve assured us ... they will be prepared to enforce the sanctions,″ Boucher said.

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