Croatia to rethink cooperation with Hague court

ZAGREB, Mar 11, 2000 -- (Reuters) Croatia will rethink its cooperation with the Hague war crimes tribunal after a fierce domestic reaction to a sentence on a former general last week marred eefforts at rapprochement, officials said on Friday.

Initial contacts looked promising, but last week the court slapped a 45-year prison sentence on Bosnian Croat general Tihomir Blaskic, stunning Croatian public and causing an outburst of public protests.

The most serious incident took place on Monday, when right-wing leaders organized a bad-tempered mass rally in front of the U.S. embassy.

"A three-week deadline has been set for the government to draft and propose to parliament a platform for cooperation with the tribunal," said parliament speaker Zlatko Tomcic.

Croatia - a member of the United Nations - years ago adopted a constitutional law guiding relations with the court, but its former nationalist government continuously thwarted the court's investigations and demands for documentation.

Tomcic said the initiative for drafting a new policy statement came from the tribunal itself, which wanted Zagreb to define mutual relations "in a more precise way".

He spoke to reporters after a four-hour crisis meeting held behind closed doors, at which key players from parliament and cabinet, heads of major political parties and secret services met to work out a new strategy.

Sorting out those relations, which is seen as a precondition for faster integration in the European Union, was one of the key promises of the new center-left government.

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