Hurd calls for EC to consider sanctions against Croatia

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The Independent Online
DOUGLAS HURD, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday that the European Community should consider imposing sanctions on Croatia for its role in the Bosnian war. His remarks appeared to set Britain at odds with Germany, whose Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, said on Tuesday that it would be inappropriate for the EC to subject Croatia to punitive measures.

Mr Hurd, speaking in Parliament, said the EC's foreign ministers might discuss clamping sanctions on Croatia when they meet in Brussels next Monday. 'We believe the time has come for the European Community - perhaps on Monday - to consider economic measures against Croatia so long as Croatia too is engaged in activities contrary to international principles,' Mr Hurd said.

He was referring to Croatia's collusion with Serbia in the de facto partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina. While the Croats are nominal allies of Bosnia's Muslim-led government, they have devoted much energy to establishing a separate Bosnian Croat state in the south-west of the republic. In return, they have effectively acknowledged Serbian control of large parts of northern and eastern Bosnia.

Germany was instrumental in persuading the EC to recognise Croatia's independence in January 1992. However, Germany's public support for Croatia has diminished in recent months as Croatian forces have attacked Bosnia's Muslims.

To arm-twist Western countries into giving more money for Bosnian relief, the United Nations aid chief flew in to besieged Sarajevo yesterday to gain first-hand impressions of the tragedy facing the city.

Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the trip would enable her to testify about conditions in the Bosnian capital to tomorrow's Geneva meeting of UNHCR donor countries, and would reassure Sarajevo's citizens of the UN's commitment.

The UN relief boss appealed last weekend for rich Western states to renew contributions to the organisation, after warning that the mission might fold through lack of food to distribute to more than 2 million hungry people in Bosnia.

Water and fuel shortages caused by the Serbian blockade have already sparked epidemics of typhus and dysentery among Sarajevo's more than 300,000 inhabitants, entering their 16th month under siege.

Under a deal brokered between Bosnian Serbs and Muslims by Bernard Kouchner, the former French humanitarian affairs minister, Serbs yesterday reconnected some parts of Sarajevo with fresh water. But Serbian forces reneged on promises to turn on supplies of natural gas.

While world attention dwells on the war in Bosnia, a senior UN official warned that renewed fighting between Croatian government forces and Serbian rebels might be round the corner in Croatia. Cedric Thornberry, UN civil affairs chief for former Yugoslavia, said the planned ceremonial reopening of Croatia's biggest bridge at Maslenica, near the port of Zadar this weekend, could spark off a new round of bloody fighting with Serbian forces.

The Croats recovered Maslenica in January after crossing UN lines which surround Serbian-held territory seized in the war in Croatia in 1991. Mr Thornberry said although Croats were 'technically in the wrong' for rebuilding the destroyed bridge inside the UN zone, 'I understand their impatience'. Maslenica bridge provides the only land link between the seaboard and the rest of Croatia.