Diplomatic scramble as Croats go to polls

Zagreb (AP) - Diplomats scrambled to prevent renewed Serb-Croat fighting yesterday as Croatian voters chose a new parliament expected to strengthen the hand of their authoritarian president.

US and UN envoys expressed worry that a breakdown in talks on returning Serb-held East Slavonia to Croatia might spark new warfare and undermine a peace plan for neighbouring Bosnia. "We're concerned that any military action could disrupt the peace efforts," said the US ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith. He said he hoped the issue could be resolved when the presidents of Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia meet for talks this week at Dayton, Ohio.

UN officials reported some shelling near Dubrovnik, on Croatia's southern coast, probably from Serb positions in Bosnia, but there were no reports of casualties. The shelling was apparent retaliation for what Serbs said was a ceasefire violation by Croatian forces across the border in Bosnia.

President Franjo Tudjman called yesterday's Croatian election a year early to exploit his army's recent successes in driving Serbs from land they held in southern and western Bosnia.

About 50,000 Serbs live in eastern Slavonia, raising concern that Serb- dominated rump Yugoslavia might send its federal army in to defend them if Croatia should attack.