Croatia asks to probe and try war crimes itself

ZAGREB, May 11, 2000 -- (Reuters) Croatia said on Wednesday it hoped a UN tribunal would allow it to investigate its own war crimes after Zagreb's break with the past decade of nationalism.

"We have discussed the possibilities of having Croatian officials investigate the crimes, having trials in Croatia and having perpetrators sit out their prison terms in our prisons," Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic told reporters.

He held what he said were excellent talks with Claude Jorda, president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, reflecting a new climate of confidence that followed a center-left victory in Croatia's January general election.

Expert teams should now start elaborating and possibly implementing Croatian demands, Granic said.

"I believe, and very much wish, that we shall produce a document which will define Croatia's implementation of those principles in agreement with the ICTY prosecutors," Granic said.

Jorda did not comment on Granic's remarks but said the tribunal, based in The Hague, had absolute confidence in new Croatian leaders steering the country on a path of "loyal cooperation, without obstacles".

However, he told a war crimes conference held on Croatia's Adriatic coast on Tuesday it was probably still too early to have trials in Croatia.

Cooperation with the tribunal was one of the key demands Croatia has to meet to facilitate its entry into Western organizations, including NATO's Partnership for Peace.

ICTY'S experts on Tuesday completed their first probe of mass graves in Croatia, carried out in cooperation with local police and investigators.

The war crimes allegations involving Croatian citizens date back to the 1991-95 conflict with minority Serbs who opposed Zagreb's independence from Yugoslavia.

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