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World - Europe

Thousands in Zagreb bid farewell to Tudjman

funeral
Tudjman's widow, Ankica, accepts the Croatian flag at the funeral  

But top world leaders shun ceremony

December 13, 1999
Web posted at: 1:27 p.m. EST (1827 GMT)


In this story:

Low-key international presence at funeral

Who will lead the country?

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



ZAGREB, Croatia -- Hundreds of thousands of Croats lined the streets of Zagreb on Monday for the funeral procession of the late President Franjo Tudjman, the man who led Croatia to independence.

Many European countries and the United States also offered their condolences, but they stopped short of sending top officials for the funeral, signaling distaste for Tudjman's autocratic ways and policy twists during Balkan conflicts.

Tudjman's coffin was taken to the chapel at Mirogoj cemetery, the capital's main cemetery, for funeral services led by the Archbishop of Zagreb, Josip Bozanic. Tudjman died on Friday at the age of 77 after a long battle with cancer and other complications.

At midday Monday, Tudjman's casket, draped with a red and white Croatian flag, was taken by an honor guard from the presidential palace, where he had been lying in state, and loaded into the back of a trailer pulled by a military jeep.

Led by police cars with their blue lights flashing and flanked by white-uniformed motorcycle police, the convoy moved slowly through the streets of this capital, past thousands of people who lined the sidewalks a dozen deep to pay their respects.

Skies were overcast and light rain fell intermittently. Church bells peeled as the procession entered the center of the city.

Low-key international presence at funeral

Throughout the country, and also in neighboring Bosnia, where Croats make up about 15 percent of the population, people burned candles and commemorated the former communist general, praising him for leading Croatia out of Yugoslavia in 1991.

But Western governments have been critical of Tudjman's authoritarian rule, his treatment of Serbs, and his advocacy for Bosnian Croat nationalists that threatened Bosnia's Dayton peace agreement.

Most nations sent deputy foreign ministers or ambassadors. Even some friendly neighbors, such as Slovenia and Bosnia, were not represented by heads of state.

As of Monday morning, the Foreign Ministry's list of senior figures expected included only Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and the prime ministers of Hungary, Macedonia and Slovenia.

Who will lead the country?

With Tudjman's death, the focus is now on who will lead the country.

Parliamentary Speaker Vlatko Pavletic was named acting president in November after Tudjman was declared temporarily incapacitated.

Parliamentary polls are set for January 3 and a presidential election must be held within 60 days of Tudjman's death.

Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Union has been trailing in polls.

"Now, after Tudjman, we must try to resolve the economic and social crisis, to strengthen parliamentary democracy and guarantee human rights and freedom of the media.

"Our message is - Croatia must go on," said leading opposition figure Ivica Racan of the Social Democrats.

Foreign Minister Mate Granic, who has backing from both Washington and some European states, has emerged as a leading candidate for president.

"But I think if opposition parties win in parliamentary elections, I think then it will be OK for the United States and Europe if someone from the opposition will also be the new president," said Tihomir Ladisic, joint spokesman for the leading opposition parties, the Social Liberals and Social Democrats.

The presidential candidates have not yet been officially declared, but the election will probably take place shortly after parliamentary voting.

Correspondent Patricia Kelly and Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Thousands mourn Tudjman in Croatia; opposition worries
December 12, 1999
World leaders say Tudjman's death chance for Croatian democracy
December 11, 1999
Croatia swears in acting president to replace ailing Tudjman
November 26, 1999
Albright presses Croatia for more democracy
August 30, 1998

RELATED SITES:
Croatian President's Office Home Page
Republic of Croatia
Croat Netlink
President Franjo Tudjman's Biography
CIA World Factbook 1999: Croatia
The directory of Croatian WWW Servers


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