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May 29, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 191

Interview: Muhamed Sacirbej

UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali presented four options on the future of the UN forces in Bosnia: preserving the current status quo; more decisive military response; withdrawal; and redeployment which means less troops on the ground. VREME asked Bosnia-Herzegovina's UN ambassador Muhamed Sacirbej which of those options is the most acceptable to his government.

SACIRBEJ: "First I have to say that those are not the only options. Mr. Ghali thought them up from the point of view that is not the most favorable for Bosnia-Herzegovina. For example, the French ambassador in New York said his country does not believe any of the four options are possible. They feel that UNPROFOR has to have greater powers to respond to Serb provocation. The fourth option you mentioned could, on one hand, mean a transition to a complete withdrawal or a closing up towards the UNPROFOR mandate with even less authority than the current mandate. That means cementing the "preserving the peace" mandate. The problem is that we were given promises of a stronger UN mandate in return for our withdrawal of the demand to lift the arms embargo. If UNPROFOR is marginalized we will be forced to warn of the possible consequences. The most important is which other options are open for the protection of civilians in Bosnia. Also, we need to be much more serious in implementing resolutions. It's no serious to say one thing one day and later simply say that you aren't ready to defend them and take weapons away from the defenders, citizens of a certain town."

VREME: Boutros Ghali said the problem is that there is no clear definition of the safe areas.

SACIRBEJ: "They are forcing the concept of demilitarizing the safe areas. The UN administration feels the Bosnian army's right to arms in those zones is somewhat unclear. o us it naturally is not unclear. When the resolution on the safe areas was adopted the French ambassador told the Security Council that the resolution was adopted with the aim of helping the Bosnian government save its civilians and territories. On the other hand, we can't go for a concept of demilitarizing those zones if UNPROFOR says (which is happening on the ground) that their soldiers are of primary importance before our civilians and territory. If they want o demilitarize a zone then the citizens and territory are the primary importance before their troops. The prevailing opinion in UNPROFOR is that they are the most important to themselves and do only what they can for the others."

VREME: "What would happen on the ground in Bosnia if UNPROFOR withdraws?

SACIRBEJ: "That's hard to predict. The question is under which circumstances UNPROFOR would withdraw and how much would we be allowed to prepare for that eventuality. Civilians would certainly be in great danger. That decision could mean that the Bosnian government will get the right to arms and defence."

VREME: What do you think Karadzic's forces would do if UNPROFOR withdraws?

SACIRBEJ: "That depends on the threats they get in regard to preventing their attacks. If that is not done seriously UNPROFOR personnel would be in danger and the safe areas."

Croatia: Tudjman and AIM

When Split's Nedeljna Dalmacija newspaper published an article titled Media Fifth Column early this year in which writer Vukasin Djuricic listed all foreign media correspondents, calling them enemies of the Croatian state, informed local sources were surprised that the Alternative Information Network (AIM) was not included. They assumed that one of the possible reasons for the omission was the fact that AIM has political and financial aid from the European Commission, Council of Europe and EU. Croatia has applied to join the Council of Europe and probably does not want to upset things and suggested that Djuricic leave AIM alone.

AIM's activities in Croatia are fairly intense and its certain that the authorities, amid efforts to clamp state control on all the media, did not view the 15 odd journalists favorably due to their stands which differ from official policies. It was just a matter of days before AIM would be included in the media fifth column.

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman frequently mentions internal enemies in his speeches and he included AIM among them when he addressed a meeting of the central board of his ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in the context of powers which are trying to restore Yugoslavia.

Tudjman's speech inspired vigilant journalists who soon satanized AIM. First Nedeljna Dalmacija opened the wound and passed it on to Slobodna Dalmacija for more detail.

Knowing the situation in Croatia, this is certainly just the beginning of a media campaign against AIM.

Tudjman listed so many enemies in his speech that they make up about 15% of the Croatian population and AIM hasn't much to worry about. If 15% of Croatia's population really are enemies as the authorities claim that means close to half a million people. AIM's 15 strong staff are just a drop in the ocean hardly worth mentioning.

Croatia: Disciplining Mercep

When Franjo Tudjman tamed the right wingers in his ruling HDZ 18 months ago he said he was not doing it gladly but added that the warmongers were under the eye of the world and had to give up their ranking party posts. Vice Vukojevic, Branimir Glavas, Vladimir Seks, Tomislav Mercep, Luka Bebic, Ivo Sanader and others had to go. Some of them made no secret of their pro-Ustashi feelings The only one that was left was defence minister Gojko Susak who doesn't hide his own pro-Ustashi feelings but his qualities include unwavering loyalty to Tudjman and services among Ustashi émigrés.

Under a silent agreement all of them never spoke out against Tudjman, on the contrary they were fiercest when dealing with his opposition. Tudjman paid them back by not publicly attacking them, leaving discussions for party meetings.

The only man who didn't abide by that agreement is Tomislav Mercep who is increasingly loud in his complaints that he never got a war decoration although thousands of others did. Everyone knows that he can never be decorated since he was arrested in Vukovar in 1991 for crimes that were never disclosed in public but are an open secret. He then became an advisor in the police to avoid taking him to trial but no one would stand by his war-time resume which in turn provided ample opportunity for blackmail.

Mercep tolerated the state of grace for a while but everything changed once Globus weekly published court documents charging him with organizing the murder of the Zec family in Zagreb last year.

Tudjman himself intervened angrily but it was clear that Mercep's asylum in Zagreb was becoming increasingly unsafe.

Mercep slowly took to protecting his own flanks and become one of the most fervent hard-liners in the HDZ in fierce parliament clashes with the opposition but later he drew back to become the head man in the Association of Croatian Fatherland War Volunteers (UDDRH).

Besides publicly insulting men who enjoy Tudjman's confidence, Mercep also voiced UDDRH demands which can be interpreted as opposition to the president himself. He demanded open doors in the intelligence service (headed and controlled by Tudjman's son Miroslav) as well as the headquarters of the Croatian army and state media for his volunteers.

That shows that he knows very well where the main levers of power are located and if his demands are met, the UDDRH would become one of the most powerful organizations in the country overnight.

Tudjman cut back those ambitious dreams and rejected the demands at a meeting of HDZ parliament deputies showing once more that radical political deviations bother him once they touch at the ruling structures. There are no signs that Tudjman intends to cut down the UDDRH radically or arrest Mercep.

As soon as the Hague tribunal publishes a list with Mercep's name (and no one doubts it will) Tudjman will have to decide whether he wants a disobedient associate or a scapegoat criminal.

Montenegro: Epilogue of the Police Scandal

Vukasin Maras, former general secretary of the Yugoslav Car Club, became head of the Montenegrin state security service and the investigation into Bozina Veskovic suspected of bombing a house in Spuzu has been stopped. Those are the latest details of the police scandal that has been shaking Montenegro for a month.

We're still expecting to hear whether the resignations of ousted police minister Nikola Pejakovic's three closest associates will be accepted. There's also no news yet on the status of five heads of the Podgorica security center who Pejakovic fired or on who will be charged with bombing the house of Moslem refugees in Spuz.

Montenegro's government adopted the resignations by Pejakovic's associates at last Monday's session, VREME learned from reliable sources, but Maras' appointment has filled in only gap. VREME sources said the personnel changes in the police caused a heated debate at the government meeting and elsewhere.

Maras was considered the most serious candidate for police minister among informed sources but he didn't get the post because of his objections and a deal between prime minister Milo Djukanovic and president Momir Bulatovic.

The authorities were united in hiding the clash within the police but differed on personnel changes. Even public servants guessed which candidate was closer to Bulatovic or Djukanovic.

The new police minister Filip Vujanovic is said to have Bulatovic's support because he represented him in court as a lawyer once which earned him the justice ministry. Vujanovic did not take the ministerial post gladly this time.

On the other hand Djukanovic was closely associated with Maras for a number of years. Djukanovic insisted on making him head of the secret police although Bulatovic allegedly wanted his cabinet chief in the job.

There was also mention of high ranking civil servants as assistant police ministers since neither the president or prime minister want to face an out of control situation again.

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