From Correspondent Jackie Shymanski
ZAGREB (CNN) -- Croatian President Franjo Tudjman says force was the only option to shift the balance of power in the Balkans aways from the Serbs. His army's successful military offensive that swept Krajina Serbs out of occupied lands was launched because four years of negotiations failed.
JACKIE SHYMANSKI: I'm Jackie Shymanski in Zagreb, Croatia. I'm speaking to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. Mister president, "Operation Storm" the military offensive that swept throughout the Krajina has now finished can you tell me why the decision was made to use force instead of continued negotiations towards peace?
FRANJO TUDJMAN: Just because of the fact that this occupation did last for four years, and this was the occupation of areas of vital interest for Croatian economic life. All the efforts of the Croatian government in order to arrive at an agreement with the Bosnian-Serbs who were an instrument first of all to the Communist army as well as of the greater Serbian idea, proved to be futile. We did want to achieve a peaceful solution but since such a solution did not come about we were forced to take the respective steps, in order to restore these areas to the constitution and legal system of the republic.
SHYMANSKI: The United Nations says that the Croatian military may have been responsible for some atrocities during this offensive. What do you know about the U.N. claims and what is your response to that?
TUDJMAN: First of all there have been no atrocities committed by the Croatian-armed forces. There have, there were, only casualties in the operations during the fighting and all objective observers and monitors have to admit this fact. They can only admit that the Croatian forces were extremely professional just as they were in the operation in Western Slovenia and the same applies to this operation waged recently in former sectors South and North. There have been reports that for instance Knin was burning, however only some houses were destroyed and most of these houses, most of these buildings, were within the barracks complex. The city, of Knin as well as other towns and localities were not destroyed by the Croatian-armed forces. Of course speaking of operations of this scope and considering the fact that this was a front-line of close to seven hundred kilometers which involved forces on both sides of more than one hundred and fifty thousand troops, but one could not avoid casualties both on the Croatian side and on the opposite side.
SHYMANSKI: Why do you think so many people decided to get out of the way of your oncoming army and did not take you up on your offer of staying in Krajina?
TUDJMAN: The authorities thought they were defeated and would have no conditions to stay and to live there. But on its part Croatia has done everything in order to invite all those who have not been guilty of any crimes to stay. We can guarantee them all their human and other rights and said they could freely stay in this part of Croatia.
SHYMANSKI: Peace talks, umm, Mister Holbrooke was here, umm, and he's been going back and forth he's on his way to Bosnia now. What can you tell us about this new U.S. proposal and what do you think of it?
TUDJMAN: First of all, I and the Republic of Croatia welcome the endeavors of the United States of America, and of President Clinton to take the initiative so as to lead to the solution of the crisis in the former Yugoslavia. Another encouraging fact with regard to this initiative involves the readiness both of the European Union and Russia to support this initiative. I would like to believe that if an agreement could be reached already during this year and that the involvement of NATO instead of the inefficient UNPROFOR could bring to a definitive end of the conflict of it next year.
SHYMANSKI: Do you rate Croatia's sphere of influence now, has this recent offensive, "Operation Storm" has it completely changed how Croatia will be viewed here in the Balkans and around the world?
TUDJMAN: Yes, absolutely. With the victories achieved by the Croatian-armed forces, that is with the liberation of most of the occupied parts of Croatia the independent and democratic Croatian state has strengthened its position and its Image. And it has undoubtedly become a factor in the establishment of a new international order in the former Yugoslavia. Of course within the scope of the solution of the crisis which we discussed such opposition of Croatia creates real circumstances, real conditions for bringing us closer to peace.
SHYMANSKI: Sir I would like to thank you very much for joining us, I'm Jackie Shymanski; in Zagreb, Croatia. I've been speaking with the Croatian President, Mister Franjo Tudjman.
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