- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2001

ZAGREB, Croatia — In an emergency meeting that immediately plunged Croatia into a political crisis, the Cabinet yesterday gave the green light for any citizen indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal to be arrested and extradited.
Following the decision, announced by Prime Minister Ivica Racan, four ministers in the 23-member Cabinet offered their resignations in protest.
Alluding to the international praise that followed the extradition of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the Netherlands-based tribunal, Mr. Racan said rejecting the tribunal's requests to extradite Croatian citizens "would return us into the abyss of the troubled Balkans, from which even Serbia" is escaping.
The comment reflected the pressure on Croatian leaders to act on previous promises to cooperate with the tribunal. Serbia's prime minister recently sent Mr. Milosevic to The Hague tribunal.
Mr. Racan, who must accept the resignations to make them formal, announced he would ask parliament to give his government a vote of confidence "as soon as possible."
Government sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said parliament may meet to vote as early as tomorrow or Tuesday.
Given the makeup of the present five-party coalition, which has lasted for 18 months, the survival of a confidence vote is far from certain.
The crisis was triggered by an announcement Friday by Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the U.N. tribunal, that her court for the first time had indicted Croatian citizens for war crimes against Serbs in the country who rebelled in 1991 against the republic's decision to split from Yugoslavia.
Croatian sources said the indictments target two army generals.
The issue is delicate in Croatia, where many glorify the country's wartime commanders as protectors from Serbian rebels, who killed thousands and reduced villages and cities to rubble in 1991. Although many Serbs also died, many Croats still believe Croats were the sole victims of the war.
Appearing before reporters late yesterday, Mr. Racan said that the Cabinet decided to "assign the Justice Ministry to go ahead with the procedure of arresting and extraditing persons indicted" by the World Court.
The decision is effective immediately, he said.
Tribunal prosecutors have been investigating the slayings of hundreds of Serbs following Zagreb's 1995 offensive to recapture land seized by Serbian rebels during the six-month war of 1991, as well as earlier slayings of Serbs during the 1991 war.
The names in the indictments were not revealed. But Croatia's state news agency, HINA, citing unidentified government sources, reported earlier that the likely suspects are retired Gen. Ante Gotovina, a commander during the 1995 offensive, and Rahim Ademi, a general of Kosovar Albanian origin. Gen. Ademi likely would be charged with responsibility in the killings of dozens of Serbs during a 1993 offensive against the Serbian rebels.
Also yesterday, the biggest association of the veterans of Croatia's 1991 war threatened to use "the most radical measures" against extradition, including mass protests and road blockades.
"There will be no extradition; we will prevent them," declared veterans' leader Mirko Condic, whose group gathered 150,000 people at a February rally against a local court's war crimes prosecution of an ex-general.
Asked whether he fears the extradition decision would trigger protests, Mr. Racan said he does, but he added: "I believe in the maturity of the Croatian people. I cannot believe that some groups would be ready to jeopardize Croatia's interests."

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