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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05ZAGREB834
2005-05-19 13:50:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Zagreb
Cable title:  

LOCAL ETHNIC TENSIONS RISE IN ELECTION WAKE

Tags:   PREL  PGOV  SR  HR 
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						UNCLAS ZAGREB 000834 

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR EUR/SCE - KABUMOTO, BENEDICT, GAUDIOSI, ENGLISH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV SR HR
SUBJECT: LOCAL ETHNIC TENSIONS RISE IN ELECTION WAKE

REF: A. ZAGREB 827

B. ZAGREB 792



1. (SBU) An unfortunate convergence of events has stirred
anger
and fear among some small-town Croats, sparking several
incidents of ethnic hatred against Serbs. The May 9 USG
presentation of the Legion of Merit to the relatives of
Chetnik
leader Draza Mihailovic; the May 10 reports of proposed
changes
to the Hague Tribunal's indictment against Croatian Generals
Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac, interpreted as an indictment
of
the entire nation; the May 15 Chetnik rally in Ravna Gora
with
the participation of SaM FM Vuk Draskovic; and inflammatory
May
15 Croatian news coverage of Serb refugees bussed in to vote
at
local elections -- these have all become intertwined in the
minds of a portion of the Croatian public, particularly in
war-
affected areas, and reinforced the "cult of victimhood" still
prevalent in some places ten years after Dayton. The results
range from disappointing to tragic. Anti-Serb graffiti has
appeared in the south-central town of Gracac featuring the
infamous slogan "Srbe na vrbe" ) translating to "Serbs in
the
willows," the rough equivalent of "Hang 'em high." In
Vojnic,
between Karlovac and the Bosnian border, loyalists of the
ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) threatened Social
Democratic Party (SDP) Mayor Branko Eremic, an ethnic Serb,
assaulted one of his supporters at the mayor's home on
election
night, and stoned the car of one of Eremic's coalition
partners,
local Imam Azim Durmic. On May 18, the body of an
84-year-old
Serb refugee who had returned to vote was found in Donji
Karin
near Zadar, reportedly murdered on election night.



2. (SBU) These tensions have also crept into the politics
surrounding local governing coalitions, which are still being
negotiated in the majority of towns and counties where no
party
won enough assembly seats to govern alone. In Knin, it
appears
increasingly likely that the local HDZ chapter will form a
coalition with the far-right Croatian Party of Rights and
Croatian Block and shut the Independent Serbian Democratic
Party (SDSS) out of local government despite their first
place
finish (8 of 17 seats) on the 15th. Callers to a Croatian
TV
talk show last night explained their sentiments: Serbs in
government in Knin -- former capital of the self-proclaimed
Serbian Republic of the Krajina (RSK) during the war --
equals
RSK all over again. Post is carefully looking into these
incidents to evaluate the local situation.

BILATERAL RELATIONS CALM - DESPITE POLITICS


--------------------------





3. (SBU) At the national level, both PM Sanader and Serbian
Ambassador Misa Simurdic have assured Post that bilateral
relations remain stable. Regularly scheduled diplomatic
consultations are continuing. President Mesic, after
recently
cancelling a planned trip to Serbia in reaction to FM
Draskovic's participation in the Chetnik rally, announced
his opposition to PM Sanader's proposed government
declaration
condemning the Chetnik movement, saying the GoC should not
escalate the situation. Sanader's threat yesterday to re-
impose a visa regime on SaM is viewed as empty, made simply
to provide domestic political cover and let the public know
the GoC is not taking Serbian actions lightly. The
implication
of all this is clear: PM Sanader may have pointed Zagreb
toward
Europe, but he still has work to do in the field.
FRANK


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