Croats Doubtful on Peace Prospects With AM-Yugoslavia, Bjt
OSIJEK, Yugoslavia (AP) _ For the battle-weary residents of Croatia’s towns and villages, a new cease-fire agreement with rival Serbia is no reason to rejoice.
Previous truces have collapsed within days, and many in the provincial capital of Osijek believe this one will go the same way.
Fighting involving Serbs, Croats and the federal army has killed more than 280 people in Croatia since it and neighboring Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia June 25.
″Cease-fire? No way, they’ll be back tonight,″ said Janko Jugovic, a 63- year-old retired night watchman in the Osijek suburb of Brijest.
Serbia’s new foreign minister, Vladislav Jovanovic, announced Saturday that his republic accepted a European Community-brokered peace deal. Croatia and federal authorities had already endorsed the plan.
The proposal foresees an immediate cease-fire, an international peace conference and foreign observers to monitor peace in Croatia.
Croatia and Slovenia declared independence after Serbia and its allies failed to accept their idea of transforming the current federation into a loose association of sovereign states.
About 600,000 ethnic Serbs live in Croatia, about 12 percent of its population. Many refuse to live in an independent Croatia.
Serbia seems willing to accept independence for Slovenia, where few Serbs live. But it insists that if Croatia secedes, its borders should be redrawn so that areas with a large Serb populations are excluded.
Jugovic watched from his garden as outgunned Croatian National Guardsmen battled for two hours with federal tanks near an army training ground late Saturday. Mortar fire could be heard Sunday from rebel Serb and army positions around nearby Tenja.
″There’s no cease-fire, no agreement. They are lying,″ said Jasmin Omarbasic, 27, a guardsman patrolling his native village of Bilje.
Bilje is the last Croatian-held position in Baranja, 2 1/2 miles north of Osijek across the Danube river.
Omarbasic’s commander, Vladimir Vilko, carries a homemade hand grenade and a U.S.-made Rugers semi-automatic rifle smuggled from Switzerland. ″We’ve received no weapons from the state,″ he complained.
Damir Knezovic, a cloth merchant-turned-guardsman in the besieged Slavonian town of Vukovar, agreed. ″I wanted a gun to defend my town. They told me I had to pay for it,″ he said. ″I told them to stuff it.″
He and others see the federal army as another enemy, asserting it supports the Serb insurgents.
Federal generals say their troops, tanks and fighter jets are just separating the warring parties.
Independent observers and several foreign government now give credence to Croatian claims, however.
Many officials in Osijek don’t believe Serbia’s hard-line President Slobodan Milosevic is willing to negotiate.
Said Davor Krtic, Osijek’s chief judge: ″There is no chance this government in Serbia will accept any peace″ in the Serbian-populated parts of Croatia.