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Cablegate: Croatian Political Spectrum United Against Troops

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS ZAGREB 001678

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR EUR/SCE - KABUMOTO, S/WCI - PROSPER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MOPS KAWC HR NATO
SUBJECT: CROATIAN POLITICAL SPECTRUM UNITED AGAINST TROOPS
TO IRAQ, ARTICLE 98 FOLLOWING BUSH REMARKS

SUMMARY AND COMMENT
-------------------

1. (SBU) President Bush's widely publicized written reply to
Ambassador Neven Jurica on Jurica's presentation of
credentials has united and solidified Croatia's diverse
political parties in opposition to sending troops to Iraq or
signing an Article 98 agreement with us. Although some
commentators have emphasized the strong message in the letter
on the GoC's responsibility to ensure ICTY fugitive Ante
Gotovina is apprehended and transferred to The Hague, the
bulk of the reaction has been against the letter's call to
send troops to Iraq. Public comment has ignored the letter's
welcoming tone toward Croatia's Euro-Atlantic integration.
Given the Croatian public's broad opposition to the war in
Iraq and President Mesic's long-standing position of seeking
a UN mandate, such a response is hardly surprising. One
respected commentator, Bruno Lopandic, perhaps captured the
mood in Zagreb best in his editorial when he noted that
President Bush's letter had shown that Gotovina, troops to
Iraq, and Article 98 remain central to the U.S. agenda with
Croatia and that it was time to end the self-deception of
some Croatian politicians that these issues would fade in
importance with a Republican Administration. END SUMMARY AND
COMMENT.

2. (U) The reaction to President Bush's letter to new
Croatian Ambassador to the U.S. Neven Jurica on Jurica's
presentation of credentials was quick and uniform across the
Croatian political spectrum. In broadly replayed comments to
the media, President Mesic repeated his standard comment that
he would only support a Croatian troop contribution under a
UN mandate and UN command. However, Mesic refused to support
UNSG Annan's charge that the Iraq operation was "illegal,"
commenting that, "Military operations in Iraq, carried out by
the United States and its allies, have certainly helped to
topple the dictatorial regime and establish peace in that
part of the world which must be democratized. It is not up
to me to judge how the operation has been conducted and
whether it was launched prematurely."

3. (U) Opposition parties from the left, center and right
have all endorsed president Mesic's position that a UN
mandate is required before Croatia would contribute troops.
The chief foreign policy advisor of the SDP, the main
left-center opposition party, Zoran Milanovic commented that
Croatia should be cautious even about sending instructors to
the NATO-run military training academy when NATO itself
cannot agree on a position. Even the ruling HDZ was very
non-committal following the release of the letter. Kresimir
Cosic, the HDZ parliamentarian and chief of the Croatian
delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, commented
that, "I think that involvement of Croatia in such an
unsettled situation in Iraq would be a very sensitive issue."

4. (U) Some press reports noted the mention of Article 98 in
the President's letter, reporting that the GoC has been
polling the opposition parties to gauge support for signing a
non-surrender agreement. According to these reports, all
political parties are firmly against signing such an
agreement with the U.S., with one report quoting sources in
President Mesic's office that there would be no Article 98
agreement as long as Croatia was sending indictees to The
Hague.
FRANK


NNNN

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