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Germany Recognizes Slovenia and Croatia

December 23, 1991

ZAGREB, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Germany on Monday became the first major country to recognize Croatia and Slovenia, defying warnings from other Western leaders that the move will cause Yugoslavia’s brutal war to spread.

Media in Croatia’s nemesis Serbia accused Germany of trying to dominate Europe. Ethnic Serbs, backed by the Serb-dominated federal army, have been battling Croatian secession since late June.

″Germany, for the third time this century, assumed the right to chart the map of Europe,″ Radio Belgrade commented, alluding to the two world wars in which Serbs opposed Germany. ″Europe has been made a fool.″

Germany believes that recognizing breakaway republics will pressure Serbia to stop the battles by convincing it of the futility of fighting over secession, and a delay in doing so would reward their aggression.

Its pressure for quick recognition led the European Community last week to say it would grant recognition on Jan. 15 to any Yugoslav republic that met human rights criteria.

However, the United States, U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar and some other European officials say the move will only worsen the current conflict. Diplomats say Serbia would feel it had nothing left to lose.

In other developments, sporadic fighting was reported around Croatia, where thousands have died. A local Croatian military official reported the capture of a key village in central Croatia that had been a Serb stronghold.

Also:

-In eastern Croatia, defenders and the few civilians left prepared for Christmas. In Nustar, south of Osijek, a large pine tree felled by artillery was decorated with ornaments from destroyed homes. Croats are mostly Roman Catholic, and defenders said they likely would have their midnight Christmas service in a bomb shelter. Three trees were decorated in the center of Osijek.

-Croatia issued a new currency, the Croatian dinar, to replace the Yugoslav dinar and told residents to exchange their money before Jan. 1.

-The Parliament in Slovenia adopted a new constitution that officials said will be the foundation of an independent republic.

-Serbia’s parliament, dominated by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s Socialists, confirmed Premier Radoman Bozovic and a new Cabinet by a vote of 149-15. Bozovic is considered close to the Serbian leader, and he chose a top Yugoslav army general, Marko Negovanovic, for his defense minister.

German President Richard von Weizsaecker on Monday sent letters to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Slovenian President Milan Kucan granting recognition. Formal ties will be established Jan. 15.

A German Foreign Ministry spokesman in Bonn, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Croatia and Slovenia ″have met all the conditions for recognition and there was no reason to delay it.″

Iceland and the Baltics are the only other countries to have recognized Slovenia and Croatia.

Since the EC declared that it would recognize Yugoslav republics, Macedonia and Bosnia-Hercegovina have also requested independence, leaving only Serbia and its small ally Montenegro to maintain a Yugoslav state.

In central Croatia, defense officials said they had recaptured the village of Trnava, which had been a stronghold of Serb-led forces, and predicted the key nearby city of Okucani also would be recaptured.

Serb-led forces have captured about one-third of Croatian territory. Serbia says Croatia can secede from Yugoslavia, but cannot take with it land where Croatia’s minority of 600,000 lived.

In Zagreb on Monday long lines of people waited outside banks to exchange their Yugoslav currency for Croatian.

″It’s very good to have our dinars,″ said 69-year-old Alfred Valkovic, standing in line at the largest Croatian bank, Zagrebacka Banka. ″The old ones would bring us even worse inflation. It’s also a good sign of independence.″

Slovenia has been peacefully pursuing independence after a brief fight with the federal army, which has since withdrawn.

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