ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ The government on Sunday gave experts from the international war crimes tribunal permission to examine an alleged mass grave thought to contain the bodies of ethnic Serbs killed in Croatia's 1991 war for independence.

The site, in the region of Gospic, 60 miles southwest of the capital Zagreb, was a former stronghold of ethnic Serbs who rebelled against Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia.

The government said in a statement it hopes the investigations will help identify perpetrators of war crimes.

Many Croats feel they were the sole victims of the war with minority Serbs, who managed to seize a third of Croatian territory.

The old government led by late nationalist President Franjo Tudjman refused to concede that Croats were also involved in war crimes and was often criticized for its lack of cooperation with the international war crimes tribunal located in The Hague, Netherlands.

Gospic was often mentioned in domestic and international human rights reports as a possible site where Serbs were killed because of their ethnicity.

The Croatian Helsinki Committee believes that dozens of Serb civilians were executed and thrown into a pit in Gospic.

The death of Tudjman in December 1999 and the ouster of his nationalist party in January elections opened the way for better cooperation with the U.N-sponsored tribunal.

Chief prosecutor of the tribunal, Carla del Ponte, visited Croatia last week and praised the new reformist government for its policy shift.