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Cablegate: Codel Tanner Visit to Croatia (Feb 21-24)

VZCZCXRO7426
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #0128 0571257
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261257Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8606
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000128

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/SCE - BALIAN; AND H

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OREP PREL PGOV NATO HR
SUBJECT: CODEL TANNER VISIT TO CROATIA (FEB 21-24)

REF: ZAGREB 116

1. SUMMARY: CODEL Tanner, with six House members from the US
delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, had a successful
visit to Croatia from Feb. 21 to 24. The CODEL met with both Prime
Minister Ivo Sanader and President Stjepan Mesic on Feb. 21. Key
topics were Croatia's NATO membership, ISAF deployments, Kosovo
(reported reftel), and efforts to combat corruption. In Dubrovnik
on Feb. 23-24, the delegation was briefed on post-war reconstruction
efforts. END SUMMARY.

2. PM Sanader stressed his appreciation for U.S. leadership in
Southeast Europe. He said Croatia would warmly welcome a visit by
President Bush, if one could be arranged around the time of the NATO
Summit in Budapest. Sanader added that Croatia was now,
particularly in the context of its own efforts to join NATO and the
EU, looking to play a constructive leadership role within the
region.

3. Sanader assured the CODEL that Croatia would resolve all
outstanding issues related to NATO accession. The GoC would approve
its supplemental SOFA "very soon." The GoC would also continue its
campaign to inform the public that NATO is a "community of values"
and not just a military alliance. This campaign had already
succeeded in pushing support for NATO over 50 percent, and Sanader
said he thought recent instability in the region would remind people
of why NATO was a good idea, and that poll numbers would rise toward
65 or 70 percent. He also said he was confident the Croatian
parliament would unanimously approve Croatia's NATO entry when the
time came. Sanader also stressed that Croatia remained committed to
its ISAF deployment, and was looking at how it might be able to take
charge of a PRT in 2009. Noting that some UN soldiers had died
during peacekeeping operations in SEE in the 1990's, Croatia now had
"an obligation to help" bring stability to other parts of the
world.

4. In its meeting with President Mesic, the CODEL heard again that
Croatia is firmly committed to seeking NATO and EU membership.
Mesic also expressed confidence that public opinion in favor NATO
would remain above 50 percent. In response to a CODEL question on
corruption, Mesic acknowledged that it remained a problem for
Croatia, particularly in the area of public procurement. He noted,
however, that Croatia had created the necessary institutions to help
combat corruption, and that a key measure was to ensure
transparency. He was confident Croatia would continue to improve
its efforts to fight corruption. "We won the battle to establish
democracy; we can win the fight against corruption as well."

5. In a visit to Dubrovnik on February 23, the delegation met with
Nikola Obuljen, who was Dubrovnik's deputy mayor when the city was
shelled in the early 1990's and mayor during the reconstruction
period. Obuljen told the delegation about his experience negotiating
with the Serbs to stop the attacks and then negotiating with
international organizations to try to get reconstruction assistance,
which was particularly difficult because the war still continued in
other parts of the country. In the end, Obuljen said, foreign
assistance paid for 10 to 15 percent of Dubrovnik's reconstruction
efforts.

6. CODEL Tanner has reviewed this cable.

BRADTKE

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