New Croatian president supports return of Serb refugees

ZAGREB, Feb 10, 2000 -- (AFP) The newly-elected Croatian President Stipe Mesic said Thursday he supported the return of more than 200,000 Serb refugees who fled their homes during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Beta news agency reported Thursday.

Mesic said in an interview with Belgrade television station Studio B that for him, "only refugees exist, no matter of their nationality."

"All refugees are victims of war for which they are not guilty and they all should return to their homes," he added.

Croatia's new government, which is seeking to bring Croatia out of the international isolation it suffered under late president Franjo Tudjman, have been pushed by the international community to allow the refugees to return.

Hundreds of thousands of Serbs fled Croatia during the 1991-95 war in Croatia and humanitarian organizations estimate that more than 200,000 have found shelter in Yugoslavia.

However, Mesic said Croats and Muslims must also be allowed to return to their homes in the Bosnian Serb entity.

Mesic won presidential elections in Croatia on Tuesday on the promise he would reform the country's economy and make Croatia a truly democratic European country after the hardline rule of Tudjman, who died in December.

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