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Cablegate: Zagreb Daily Report: January 4, 2009

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ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041322Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9781
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000005

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV HR
SUBJECT: ZAGREB DAILY REPORT: JANUARY 4, 2009

1. (U) FORMER PM SANADER ANNOUNCES RETURN TO ACTIVE POLITICS:
Former Croatian PM Ivo Sanader held a special press
conference at the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)
headquarters on January 3 in which he indicated that his
withdrawal from politics last year had been a mistake and
announced his return to active political life within the HDZ
as well as his plans to reactivate his parliamentary mandate.
(NOTE: Sanader quit unexpectedly as prime minister last July
without giving a clear explanation and was succeeded by
Jadranka Kosor, who took over both as prime minister and
president of the ruling HDZ party). Sanader said that his
"decision to retire was completely wrong," and that during
his absence, the HDZ had developed "a leadership deficit."
While critical of HDZ leadership in his absence, Sanader was
careful not to slight Kosor's work as Prime Minister.
However, he noted that the poor showing of HDZ presidential
candidate Andrija Hebrang in the first round of presidential
elections last week was a prime example of this leadership
deficit. Sanader labeled Hebrang's failure to make the
second round presidential run-off as "the worst since the
founding of the party in 1989," and said that Hebrang "is not
the only one to blame for that." At the moment, Sanader
seems to be getting support from a narrow circle of HDZ
officials, while the majority of party members and coalition
partners have made statements in support of PM Kosor. Public
reaction to Sanader's return to the political scene has been
almost exclusively negative. The former PM's popularity has
plummeted since his retirement as numerous corruption
scandals have come to light, which local media speculate may
eventually be tied to Sanader. The HDZ presidency called an
extraordinary meeting today regarding Sanader's announcement.
More details on the development related to Sanader's return
to politics in Croatia to follow as septel.

2. (U) CROATIAN SOLDIER IN ISAF SLIGHTLY WOUNDED: The MOD
reported that a Croatian and U.S. soldier, who are members of
the combined OMLET in Regional Command North (RC North), were
slightly wounded during training on December 30. The
soldiers were admitted to a U.S. field hospital and later ANA
hospital within Camp Shaheen. According to the MOD, the
wounds are minor and will have no permanent consequences.
The press noted that this was the second Croatian solider
injured in Afghanistan.

3. (U) CROATIAN REACTION TO SERBIA'S DECISION TO FILE
GENOCIDE COUNTERSUIT AT ICJ: The Croatian press reported that
the Government of Serbia on December 31 decided to file its
counterclaim against Croatia's genocide suit before the
International Court of Justice (ICJ). When asked about the
developments on January 1 by reporters PM Kosor said: "We
have prepared evidence to prove Croatia was exposed to a
Greater Serbian aggression under the leadership of Slobodan
Milosevic, and that this was a war which we did not want, but
we had to defend ourselves." When asked about the impact on
bilateral relations, PM Kosor said that: "This is part of the
past, while we share a common future and we would like to
live as good neighbors." President Mesic noted on January 1
that the Government of Serbia would have a hard time proving
its case.
WALKER

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