Yugoslav Cease-Fire Signed but New Fighting Imperils Accord
This country’s leaders agreed Tuesday to a cease-fire in war-torn Croatia, but within hours, explosions rocked the republic’s capital and federal gunboats blocked the harbor of the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik. At least 22 deaths were reported.
Previous cease-fires in secessionist Croatia have lasted no more than a few days. The latest peace accord was set to begin at midday today, the Tanjug news agency said.
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman expressed some optimism about the cease-fire, saying in an interview with his republic’s TV that the pact could “maybe mean that we’ve avoided an all-out war.”
Intense military activity followed the surprise announcement of the cease-fire in this southern Yugoslav resort by European Community mediator Lord Carrington.
“This country is only days away from a state of irretrievable civil war,” Carrington said.
While the pact was signed by the Serbian and Croatian presidents as well as the federal defense minister, there are serious doubts that anyone can control the spiraling violence that has killed more than 450 people since Croatia declared independence June 25.
The fighting has pitted Croats against minority Serbs in the republic who oppose independence. Federal forces have been fighting on the side of the Serbs, according to EC officials and Croatian militants.
As a result, most of Croatia is now a battle zone.
Initial reports said that 22 people were killed and 87 were wounded throughout the republic in the 24-hour period that ended Tuesday evening.
The federal air force said that it lost one plane over eastern Croatia. Croatia claimed to have shot down another plane elsewhere.
Only 25 miles from the site of the peace accord, Yugoslav navy gunboats blocked Dubrovnik’s picturesque harbor. The navy imposed a blockade on other Adriatic ports as well to squeeze the republic even further.
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