Bosnian Croats to boycott ministry over arrest

SARAJEVO, Sep 3, 2000 -- (Reuters) The main Bosnian Croat party said on Saturday that Croat officials would withdraw from the interior ministry in Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation in protest at the arrest of a Croat war crimes suspect.

In a statement faxed to Reuters, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said Monday's arrest of Dominik Ilijasevic was carried out only by Muslim interior ministry officials.

The ministry said it acted on an arrest warrant issued by a court in the central Bosnian town of Zenica which charged Ilijasevic with war crimes against Muslim civilians in 1993.

The UN mission overseeing police restructuring in the country said the Hague-based UN war crimes tribunal, which has authority to prosecute war crimes in the region, had given the go-ahead for Ilijasevic to be tried locally.

The HDZ said the party presidency accepted at a meeting on Friday the resignation of the federation's deputy federation interior minister Ivan Bacak.

Croat officials could not continue working in the ministry until "conditions were created for normal and regular functioning of the ministry in line with the law and the constitution", it added.

UN spokesman Douglas Coffman said on Saturday that senior Croat officials in the interior ministry did not go to work on Friday.

"It is important that Croats continue working in the joint institutions," he said. "Without their participation the rule of law would be undermined."

In another development on Friday, Bosnian Croat Vlatko Buzut was arrested by local police while trying to cross into Croatia from Bosnia and Tibor Prajo, another Croat, handed himself in to the police in Kiseljak, Coffman told Reuters.

"They were known as associates of Ilijasevic. They were charged by local courts in the country for war crimes," he said.

Bosnian Muslims and Croats started the 1992-95 war as allies against the Serbs but fought their own war in 1993. In 1994, they joined the U.S.-brokered federation which has never fully functioned.

The Serb republic is Bosnia's other autonomous entity.

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