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Croats Say They Are Better-Armed than Ever With AM-Yugoslavia, Bjt

September 23, 1991

VUKOVAR, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Crouching in the blood-stained basement of the wrecked Hotel Dunav, Croatian national guardsman Zlatan Voloder listened Monday to the sound of battle erupting again.

The combat came after yet another attempt at a cease-fire appeared on the verge of collapsing.

Volder said that recent seizures by the beleaguered Croats of federal tanks and weaponry give his republic a better chance.

The sunburned, 30-year-old bar owner was out of uniform for the first time in two months Monday, a day after Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and federal Defense Minister Gen. Veljko Kadijevic ordered the latest cease-fire in an undeclared war that has killed more than 500 people.

″I thought there might be a few hours of peace, at least, and I could go to a cafe with my friends or something,″ he said, raising his eyebrows and grimacing as shells fell close to the hotel. Croatian mortars spat in response.

The hotel has been hit frequently in the last two months of fighting between Croatian guards in Vukovar and Serbian rebels and army units nearly surrounding them.

In the once-pretty Danube River town, the Croats in turn besiege a federal army barracks.

As the bombardment started Monday, three guardsmen were wounded. A trail of blood led across the hotel’s marble floor lobby, strewn with old U.S. Army helmets, down to the basement washrooms where guards snatch a few minutes of sleep.

Short of weapons weeks ago, Croatian soldiers are bolstering their arsenals with tanks and anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons seized in a week-long blockade of federal barracks.

While the Yugoslav People’s Army, once regarded as the best in the Balkans, still has enough firepower to take Croatia with a massive air, sea and land assault, it also has its own problems.

The fall of several bases in Croatia, some desertions and reluctance among reservists to take up arms appear to have given the federal generals pause.

On country roads near the Hungarian border, a main artery into the Croatian capital, Zagreb, scores of captured army transporters and trucks now bearing the checkerboard Croatian emblem rumble along.

Convoys towing howitzers were seen filling up at gas stations.

″I don’t see any chance for peace at the moment, the differences are too deep,″ said Zvonimir Dasovic, a 51-year-old insurance agent in Donji Miholjac on the Hungarian border.

He showed reporters the tail section of a Yugoslav Galeb jet shot down last week and placed as a trophy on the town’s Freedom Square.

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