Croats indicted for war crimes

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The Hague (AP) - The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal yesterday announced the indictment of six Bosnian Croat leaders accused of wiping out a Muslim community in central Bosnia. However, UN officials in Sarajevo said they will continue to co-operate with those indicted.

The crimes the six are accused of were carried out on "such a wide scale and widespread basis, and implemented in such a systematic fashion that they have effectively destroyed or removed almost the entire Muslim civilian population in the Lasva Valley" in central Bosnia between May 1992 and May 1993, according to tribunal papers.

Dario Kordic, chairman of the Croatian Democratic Union in Croat-held Bosnia, and Tihofil Blaskic, chief of staff of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) in Bosnia, were charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Croatian Democratic Union is the sister party of Croatia's ruling Democratic Union of President Franjo Tudjman.

Mr Blaskic and Mr Kordic were accused of responsibility for the actions of units who destroyed at least 14 towns in the Lasva River Valley, including the notorious Ahmici Massacre on 16 April, 1993, when HVO troops stormed into the village of Ahmici firing automatic weapons, shot down an estimated 120 people and burned their homes.

The indictments attracted criticism from a senior Bosnian Croat official. Jozo Leutar, Deputy Interior Minister of both the Bosnian Muslim-Croat federation and the self-styled Bosnian Croat state, said that both sides committed mistakes during the Croat-Muslim conflict but that they should now stick together and gather data for federal authorities.

"I think that somebody's up to slowing down or even stopping the functioning of the federation," Mr Leutar said. "We cannot allow that our leaders be in the papers mentioned in such contexts while we know that they have contributed to the creation of the federation." Mr Leutar said the tribunal should concentrate on crimes committed by Serbs.

nWashington - The US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher. will join the Bosnia peace talks in Ohio today but his intervention is unlikely to result in an early comprehensive Balkan settlement, his spokesman said. "It is extremely unlikely, if not highly improbable, that there will be a comprehensive peace agreement reached tomorrow", said the State Department spokesman, Nicholas Burns.