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Albright gets tough on Croatia

Country's actions costing it aid,
U.S. secretary of state says

May 31, 1997
Web posted at: 3:34 p.m. EDT (1534 GMT)

In this story:

ZAGREB, Croatia (CNN) -- If Croatia does not exercise "moral" leadership in the former Yugoslavia, Washington will continue to oppose aid and other benefits for the country, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned during a visit to Croatia Saturday.

She condemned Croatia for its failure to meet pledges on refugees and war crimes it made through the Dayton peace accords.

"We believe that Croatia's future lies in the democratic community we are building. We hold Croatia to the standards of this community, not the standards of this region's autocratic and violent past," Albright told a joint news conference with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. icon (314K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

It was the latest in a series of dressings down Washington has given to Croatia and comes just two weeks before Tudjman stands for re-election. Tudjman appeared to balk at many of her points.

Albright voiced a complaint held by NATO as well as the U.S. government, saying that Tudjman was dragging his feet on arresting war crimes suspects, including Dario Kordic, the political leader in central Bosnia during the 3 1/2-year war there. Tudjman responded that his government was cooperating with the international court in The Hague.

When she criticized his government's track record on letting refugees return to Croatia, he said his record is far better than Serbia's.

And when she told him that the region's most urgent need was "for persons of every ethnic group to be able to return home in safety," he was ambiguous.

The country had no goal of being ethnically "pure," he said, but it would be "insane" to repatriate the 180,000 ethnic Serbs who fled his country after their separatist republic was overrun in 1995.

Bridge reopening 'only positive development'

On one front, at least, there was headway. Tudjman responded to Albright's plea that a bridge to the Serb republic in Bosnia be reopened. It will be done on Sunday, Tudjman said. Albright plans to attend.

"It was the only positive development I can point to," said State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns, who called the meeting the toughest Albright has had in more than four months as secretary of state.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour reports
iconOn Albright's visit to Krajina...(347K/30 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
iconOn the Dayton accords and U.S. aid...(1.2M/15 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Albright visits Serb refugees attacked on return

Earlier in the day, Albright visited an area in what was Krajina in Croatia. Two weeks ago, some Serb refugees returned to the town. As they tried to reclaim their homes, they were attacked by Bosnian Croats who had moved into that region.

She met with some of the families who had been attacked, saw some of the homes that had been burned down, and in the presence of two Croatian government ministers, she said she was shocked and disgusted by what had happened.

One of the ministers claimed that returning Serbs had been provocateurs, and they had provoked the attacks against them, but Albright dismissed that and told them she did not like being lied to.

Albright told reporters she thought it would be "useful" if some arrests were made in the area, adding that there had to be action rather than just talk. And though she got no commitment from Foreign Minister Mate Granic and Reconstruction Minister Jure Radic that arrests would be made, they did say they would look into it.

"I think it is the responsibility of your government to live up to what you say you're doing, which is to make sure there is freedom of movement," she told the ministers. "I hope you will send out a message loud and clear that this is not acceptable."

Correspondent Christiane Amanpour and Reuters contributed to this report.

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