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Tudjman Rejects Anti-Semitism Accusations; Seeks Israeli Recognition With AM-Yugoslavia, Bjt

January 15, 1992 GMT

ZAGREB, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Seeking to gain Israeli support for Croatian independence, the republic’s president, Franjo Tudjman, is strongly denying accusations he harbors anti- Semitic sentiments.

In a letter sent Tuesday to the head of the New York-based World Jewish Congress, Tudjman said parts of his book on World War II atrocities in Croatia have been misinterpreted ″as historical revisionism or as anti-Semitism.″

He said Croatia wished ″to establish comprehensive international relations″ with Israel, which has not indicated whether it will recognize Croatia.

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Tudjman and other Croatian leaders are sensitive about perceptions of their views toward Jews because many Serbian leaders have sought to portray the Croatian government as a recreation of the fascist Croat state of World War II.

The 12-nation European Community was expected on Wednesday to recognize Slovenia and Croatia, which declared independence June 25. Several other nations, including the three former Soviet Baltic republics, have already recognized the predominately Roman Catholic republics.

Croatia has waged a six-month-old civil war against the Serb-led federal army and ethnic Serbs opposed to secession. The conflict has claimed thousands of lives.

In his latest book, ″Wastelands of Historical Reality,″ Tudjman implied that Jewish inmates at the Jasenovac death camp had mistreated other prisoners and caused the deaths of many of them. The camp was run by Croatia’s pro-Nazi Ustasha regime, which ruled Croatia during World War II.

But in the letter to Jewish Congress leader Edgar Bronfman, Tudjman acknowledged the Ustasha were to blame for widespread atrocities against Jews and others.

″The Ustasha regime committed countless war crimes and crimes against humanity (and) persecuted Jews and other minorities,″ Tudjman said in the letter.

″To my great regret, parts of my book ... have been misinterpreted either as historical revisionism or as anti-Semitism,″ Tudjman wrote. ″As a former anti-fascist fighter and a committed democrat, I refute all intentions of the kind.″

But in the past, Tudjman has compared the fate suffered by the Jews in World War II with that of the Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories. He also has questioned accounts that Croat Fascists killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies during World War II, saying the numbers are inflated.

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Israel Singer, secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress, said Tudjman’s letter was received by fax Tuesday and would be discussed by the group’s chapters in Europe and elsewhere.

″It is a beginning, an opening statement in a long discussion,″ he said.

Tudjman, along with other Croatian politicians, fought with Communist partisans against the Ustasha in World War II. He later became the youngest general in the Yugoslav army.

Croatia’s newly enacted law on national minorities, reportedly demanded by the EC as a condition for recognition, guarantees the rights of all minorities in the republic, Tudjman told Bronfman.