Serbian forces advance toward Croatian capital EC threatens economic embargo

October 07, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Despite a threatened European trade embargo, Yugoslavia's warfare intensified yesterday after Croatia ordered full mobilization against the advancing federal army and a top Serbian general accused the republic of "asking for total war."

Serbian guerrillas backed by federal army troops, tanks and aircraft fired shells within 10 miles of Zagreb as they closed in on the Croatian capital.

The Serbian forces also pressed their attack on the strategic city of Karlovac and reached the center of Vukovar, in eastern Croatia, one of the last Croatian strongholds in a region that has been pounded by artillery for weeks.

Naval gunboats continued blasting the besieged Croatian port of Zadar and fired near the medieval walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatian Radio reported.

Ferocious fighting has raged even though the combatants -- Serbia, Croatia and the Serbian-commanded federal army -- assured European Community diplomats Friday that they would halt all hostilities.

As with the six earlier EC-brokered accords, the latest truce has been ignored as the warring sides argue over its conditions.

Federal Defense Minister Veljko Kadijevic informed Croatian President Franjo Tudjman on Saturday that he interpreted the accord to mean Croatia must lift its blockade of federal bases before the army would observe a cease-fire.

That prompted Mr. Tudjman to declare in a fiery overnight broadcast that the entire republic was being called to arms.

Anyone possessing a firearm was asked to volunteer, and some Croatian officials speculated that the call-up would be made mandatory today.

At Mass in Zagreb's Roman Catholic cathedral, priests began services by giving directions to the nearest bomb shelters in case of an air raid.

From his sandbagged military headquarters in Zagreb, a senior Serbian general warned that federal troops would step up their attacks on Croatia if the secessionist republic refused to heed the truce.

"If attacks on our barracks continue, we will continue our actions," said Gen. Andrije Raseta, adding that with the mobilization call, "Tudjman is asking for total war."

Amid indications that the conflict is escalating, EC foreign ministers convened an emergency session at the De Haar castle in the Dutch town of Haarzuilen to pressure the republics to end the fighting.

The ministers issued a deadline of midnight tonight for all combatants to abide by the truce terms they agreed to Friday, warning that the EC might impose an oil embargo or cut off trade with errant republics.

About 60 percent of Yugoslavia's foreign trade is with the 12-nation EC. An oil embargo would quickly bring the war machines to a halt.

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