Croatian president to run again, despite cancer
January 30, 1997
Web posted at: 10:20 p.m. EST (0320 GMT)
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From World Affairs Correspondent Ralph Begleiter
ZAGREB, Croatia (CNN) -- When Croatian President Franjo Tudjman flew to Washington last year to be treated for stomach cancer, his trip was a closely held secret.
However, while giving his state-of-the-nation address last week, the 74-year-old Tudjman looked gaunt and spent, and rumors of his declining health no longer could be dismissed.
Even so, in a recent interview with CNN, the president contended his health is fine, and he plans to continue to be a political force.
"My health is satisfactory," he said, "and it is improving very well, so I can perform not only my presidential duties without difficulties, but I also enjoy my regular tennis playing."
The Croatian president is still regarded as a key figure in the region, largely due to his help in brokering the Bosnia peace accords.
He was at the center of the peace negotiations in Dayton, Ohio, and he cooperated with U.S. moves to arm Muslims secretly, by allowing weapons from Iran to pass through his country to Bosnia.
At the urging of the United States, Tudjman formed a "federation" with Bosnia's Muslim leaders, leaving the Serbs as odd-men-out.
Finally, his military helped turn the tide of the Bosnian war against the Serbs in 1995, driving many Croatian Serbs into exile.
"I'm proud for all I and the Croatian people did in escaping from the Communist Yugoslav regime, and the struggle for Croatian independence and democracy," he said. "So there is, generally speaking, no guilty Croatian."
Tudjman denies U.S. claims that he refuses to arrest alleged war criminals and turn them over to the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague. And he said he is not worried by the opposition demonstrations in neighboring Serbia.
"There is (no) comparison between Croatia and Serbia," he said. "And there is no danger of such a situation in Croatia as we see now in Serbia."
Although his cancer is inoperable, Tudjman said he will run for re-election in March. And he said if he loses, he will have no difficulty giving up power.
"Of course, of course," he said. "You shouldn't doubt that. But there is no chance that I and the Croatian Democratic Union will lose."
There are many observers who are not sure Tudjman has the best interest of the region at heart. They fear that when the international peacekeepers leave Bosnia, Croatia may try to annex parts of it.
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