CEOL - 'Serbs will never forgive Croat atrocities'

BELGRADE, Dec 13, 1999 -- (Reuters) Serbs will never forgive or forget atrocities committed against them under the late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, Serbian Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Saturday.

"I can't say that I liked him, but what I can say is that the Serbian people will never forgive or forget the atrocities committed against the Serbs or the occupation of their territory," Vuvic told a news conference.

"A new Tudjman will probably come to replace him and it is up to us - the Serbs - to win back our territories at some point in the future."

"I am not a member of the Tudjman family and I have no interest in his death," he said.

Vucic, a member of the ultra-nationalist Radical party, was commenting after the death on Friday evening of Tudjman, who led Croatia to independence from the Yugoslav federation in 1991.

The Serb minority in Croatia rebelled against its independence in 1991, controlling at one point about one-third of the country with the backing of Yugoslav troops and Serbian paramilitary units.

In one of the most infamous atrocities during a decade of Balkan wars, Yugoslav and Serbian soldiers allegedly killed some 200 Croats and other non-Serbs taken from a local hospital after the 1991 fall of the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar.

But the Croatian army retook the land in two lightning offensives in 1995, sparking an exodus of hundreds of thousands of Serbs to neighboring Bosnia and Yugoslavia. About 500,000 Serbs left Croatia between 1990 and August 1995.

Yugoslavia, whose dominant republic is Serbia, and Croatia were never officially at war. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Tudjman sought in a clandestine attempt to divide Bosnia during the 1992-95 war.

A Yugoslav Foreign Ministry official declined to comment on the death of Tudjman, who died aged 77.

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