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Tudjman plan to rebury Croatian Fascist leader could spark outrage

President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia said yesterday that the remains of Ante Pavelic, Croatia's Fascist leader during the Second World War, should be returned to his homeland.

In remarks likely to provoke severe criticism at home and abroad, Mr Tudjman said: "I support the idea that the bones of every Croatian man who lived for Croatia should be returned to Croatian soil. Why leave Pavelic out of it?"

In an interview with the Zagreb newspaper Vecernji List, he added that "[Pavelic's] idea of creating a Croatian state contained positive things, but it must also be acknowledged he made terrible mistakes in the implementation of his policy."

Pavelic, the leader of the extreme nationalist Ustashe movement, created a Nazi-backed puppet state known as the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in 1941. The NDH, which also included Bosnia, is best remembered for the systematic slaughter of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, and for aiming to kill one-third of Serbs on its territory, exile one-third and convert a third to Catholicism.

After the Nazi collapse in 1945, Pavelic went into hiding in Austria and Italy before leaving for Argentina in 1948. The then Communist Yugoslav state demanded his extradition as a war criminal, but Argentina's authorities rejected the request.

In 1957 Pavelic was wounded in an assassination attempt, believed to have been masterminded by the Yugoslav secret police. He settled secretly in Franco's Spain, where he died in Madrid in 1959.

Mr Tudjman coupled his call for the return of Pavelic's remains with a suggestion that the founder of Communist Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, who was half-Croat, should be buried in Croatia instead of Belgrade. Mr Tudjman, a former Communist general who fought with Tito's forces, said history would remember Tito as a great wartime leader. However, it is his proposal concerning Pavelic that will cause the greatest controversy.