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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Croatia Tells UN to Pull Peace-Keepers Out

ZAGREB, Croatia -- President Franjo Tudjman told the United Nations on Thursday that he wanted the peacekeeping mandate in Croatia terminated in March, state media reported.

The Croatian news agency HINA reported that Mario Nobilo, the Croatian ambassador to the United Nations in New York, presented Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali with a letter from Tudjman.

"The letter officially informs the United Nations that Croatia considers the UNPROFOR mandate on its territory terminated as of March 31," HINA said, referring to the UN Protection Force in former Yugoslavia.

There are an estimated 15,000 UN peacekeepers patrolling Croatia, and Zagreb is headquarters to UN operations throughout ex-Yugoslavia.

Tudjman's move appeared aimed only at eliminating the presence of peacekeepers who have patrolled a tenuous peace on the one-third of territory occupied by rebel Serbs since their 1991 war. It did not apparently affect UN headquarters, which oversees UN operations in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina and elsewhere in the former Yugoslav federation.

Unless averted by compromise, however, Croatia's decision could lead to renewed fighting between its army and rebel Serbs that would likely engulf parts of Bosnia. Already UN officials have confirmed that Croatian Serbs are helping their brethren in northwest Bosnia and the Croatian army is doing the same for Bosnian Croats in the southwest.

"I am gravely concerned about the risk of renewed hostilities should United Nations peacekeepers be withdrawn from Croatia," Boutros-Ghali said in a statement released by UN headquarters in Zagreb. "For this reason, the international community will continue its dialogue with the government of the Republic of Croatia on the issues raised in President Tudjman's letter."

In the letter, Tudjman said "a freezing of a negative status quo is unacceptable to the Croatian government."

The presence of UN troops in Croatia was "counterproductive to the peace process," the letter added.

Speaking to reporters in Bonn, Germany, Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said his country wanted the UN blue berets out because peacekeepers had not fulfilled their mission. Croatian Serbs are still armed and none of the Croatian refugees have been able to return to their homes, he said.