Yugoslavia’s Army Orders Arrest of Croatian Official
The federal army Friday ordered its troops to arrest Croatia’s defense minister for allegedly plotting an armed insurrection, a military statement said.
Croatian authorities earlier said the army’s charges against the minister, Martin Spegelj, were fabricated and that any attempt to forcibly arrest him could meet with armed resistance.
The arrest warrant is certain to heighten tensions again in this fractious Balkan federation of six republics and two provinces. For weeks, Croatia and Slovenia have agitated for separation from the central government of this nation of 24 million people.
The statement, carried by the state news agency Tanjug, said that Spegelj had masterminded a plan of an armed rebellion against Yugoslavia by “physical liquidation of army officers and their families.”
It said an investigation had shown that Spegelj had illegally imported arms from abroad to form a “Croatian army.”
Yugoslavia came close to civil war last month when independence-minded Croatia and the Communist-dominated People’s Army appeared set to clash over a federal order to disarm Croatia’s reserve police force. Tensions abated when Croatia disarmed the units and the army ended a combat alert.
The agreement was reached despite the Jan. 25 broadcast of a secret army film purporting to show Spegelj plotting to kill army officers and their families in case of armed conflict.
Croatian authorities have repeatedly said the charges against Spegelj were false and a part of an anti-Croatian campaign by the army’s top brass, dominated by pro-Communists and Serbs.
The military on Jan. 30 ordered Croatian authorities to arrest Spegelj. The Croatian authorities refused to comply. Because of Croatia’s refusal to arrest Spegelj, the army will be “forced to undertake actions to detain” him, the military statement said.