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Serbian President Apologises to Croats

Serbian nationalists condemn Tadic’s remarks as a “disgrace for Serbia”.
By Caroline Tosh
Serbian president Boris Tadic has apologised to citizens of Croatia for crimes committed by Serb forces in the 1991 to 1995 conflict in that country, local media reported this week.

"I extend my apologies to all the citizens of Croatia who suffered because of what the members of my nation have done, for which I take responsibility,” said Tadic in an interview broadcast on Croatian state television on June 24.

"I could never ignore that certain persons, supposedly in the name of the Serbian nation and state, killed people of other ethnicity and religion. At the same time, I cannot overlook the fact that the same happened to my people as well.”

The Croatian war of independence broke out in 1991 following the collapse of former Yugoslavia. Rebel Serbs occupied about one-third of Croatia’s territory and the conflict left thousands dead.

According to Serbian television B92’s report, general secretary of the Serb Radical Party, SRS, Aleksandar Vucic said Tadic “was a disgrace for Serbia", calling his statement "an apology to Croatia for killing and exiling Serbs".

Vucic added that Tadic's remarks "did not reflect the opinion of Serbian citizens, but rather that of a pitiful politician”.

Tadic is the first Serbian leader to make an official apology to Croatia for crimes committed in the Croatian conflict.

His remarks were broadcast the day before Croatian National Day - a holiday which marked 16 years since it gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

This is not the first time Tadic apologised to the victims of war. On becoming president in 2004, he visited Sarajevo and during his visit apologised to those who suffered as a result of action by Serb forces during the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict.

This week, Humanitarian Law Centre director Natasa Kandic, speaking on B92, said of Tadic’s remarks, "Assuming responsibility gives the gravest tone to his apology.”

Croatian president Stipe Mesic has also welcomed Tadic’s statement, calling it a positive step forward in bilateral relations.

Caroline Tosh is an IWPR reporter in London.