Yugoslav leader calls army out of control Croatians prepare for all-out warfare

August 30, 1991|By Dusko Doder | Dusko Doder,Special to The Sun

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Yugoslav President Stipe Mesic said yesterday the army was out of control and the country had only one more chance to end the "dirty war" in Croatia.

As the latest cease-fire broke down in a matter of hours, Croatia was gearing up for all-out war with Serbia.

It has mobilized its population. Croatia's defense minister has told the public to prepare for what was likely to be a very long "defensive" war. Yesterday morning, Croatian television newscasts were broadcasting over a massive sign reading "War for Freedom."

The European Community has lent diplomatic support to Croatia, pointing its finger at Serbia as the aggressor in the undeclared war. It also backed up Croatia's claim that the Yugoslav army, whose officer corps is dominated by Serbs, is being used as a tool of Serb policy and is openly backing Serb rebels fighting to take control of Serb enclaves in Croatia.

An EC envoy yesterday described gruesome scenes he had witnessed and blamed the Yugoslav army for much of the bloodshed.

"We were dismayed by the level of violence we saw involving heavy arms -- artillery, rocket launchers, air force attacks," envoy Henri Wijnaendts said in Zagreb.

The Dutch diplomat rejected claims by the Serbian-dominated federal army that it had intervened only to separate Croats and Serbs.

The EC gave Serbia until Sunday to implement the cease-fire, allow European monitors to supervise it, and attend a peace conference. Croatia had set a deadline of today for the army to stop its attacks.

Sporadic fighting continued but with less intensity than the prior few days. Croatian radio said a speeding army vehicle fired at unarmed people laying sandbags in the center of Zagreb, the Croatian capital, but no one was hurt.

Mr. Mesic, a Croat, told a news conference in Zagreb that the country's leaders would meet next Tuesday to discuss EC appeals for a peace conference.

"Victims are falling every day, and I believe this is the last chance to involve European Community monitors, to begin talks and to end this dirty war against Croatia," he said.

Mr. Mesic said the leaders of Yugoslavia's six republics would attend the talks with the collective federal presidency, which he currently chairs.

Mr. Mesic said there was "no political good will" during the presidency's last meeting, which broke up Wednesday.

"Yesterday's session was not completed because there was no agreement reached on the efficient implementation and monitoring of the truce," he said.

Mr. Mesic said that the army was acting independently of its supposed political masters and that those responsible for its deployment of tanks, aircraft and artillery should be brought to account.

"The presidency is formally the supreme commander. But it is obvious that the army is acting autonomously," he said.

The bloody conflict is over internal borders -- drawn arbitrarily by national leader Marshal Tito in 1945 and now regarded as sacrosanct by some and unjust by others.

The besieged eastern Croatian town of Vukovar, where local militiamen have been pounded by the Yugoslav army and Serb guerrillas since last weekend, was reported quiet yesterday.

Croatian National Guardsmen trapped inside Vukovar appealed for help but vowed to hold out. "We shall manage to defend our town," they said in a message broadcast on Zagreb radio.

About 400 bus loads of mothers of conscripts in the Yugoslav army traveled to Belgrade to demand that their sons be released from the federal forces. In the Croatian town of Osijek, 10,000 mothers arrived to make the same demand.

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