Yugoslav army, Croatian officials prepared to evacuate historic city 3,000 answer call to leave Dubrovnik

October 27, 1991|By New York Times News Service

BELGRADE, YUGOSLVIA — BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Yugoslav army and Croatian officials prepared for a voluntary evacuation of the besieged resort city of Dubrovnik yesterday, a day after fierce firefights brought army forces within a mile of the walled Old City, news reports said.

Serbian officers of the Yugoslav army said yesterday that their units, which have had Dubrovnik in a choke hold for four weeks, had halted their advance toward the Old City. There have been reports of only scattered gunfire in the area since

Friday evening.

Leaders of the Croatian forces have said they will never surrender the city, the pride of Croatia's cultural heritage.

Federal army and Croatian militia leaders agreed to a truce and evacuation during talks Friday with European Community cease-fire monitors in the nearby town of Cavtat.

Between 3,000 and 5,000 people answered an army announcement broadcast over the Dubrovnik radio Friday night calling on "citizens of all nationalities" who wished to leave the city to report to the Red Cross or the European Community monitoring mission by noon yesterday.

"The army says it will guarantee the security of exit routes from the city," said Djuro Kolic, a negotiator for the Dubrovnik authorities in talks with the army.

Men 18 to 60 years old will not be allowed to leave unless they are accompanying elderly or sick relatives, Mr. Kolic said.

Dubrovnik, which usually has a population of about 60,000 people, 90 percent of them Croats, has been without normal water, electricity and telephone service since the siege began -- last month.

Fighting in Yugoslavia has claimed between 2,000 and 3,000 lives since Croatia declared its independence in June and has caused uncounted injuries and enormous damage to property.

The United States, Britain, France and Italy have criticized the pro-Serbian army for shelling parts of the historic Old City, a charge the army denies.

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