Serbian leader won't apologize for wartime nationalism

Police cordons off the government building area to prevent protesters access ahead of Serbia's president Aleksandar Vucic visit in Zagreb, Croatia, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. President Vucic is on two day state visit to Croatia.(AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Serbia's president Aleksandar Vucic, left, is welcomed by Croatian prime minister Andrej Plenkovic, in Zagreb, Croatia, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. President Vucic is on a two day state visit to Croatia. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

ZAGREB, Croatia — Serbia's president refused to apologize during a Tuesday visit to Croatia for his nationalist wartime rhetoric calling for a "Greater Serbia" that would include large parts of Croatia.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters that Serbs and Croats have widely different views of the war they fought during the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

When grilled about a 1995 speech he made to Croatian Serbs, Vucic became defensive. He said Serbia "has no territorial disputes with Croatia," and he would not allow himself to be humiliated by Croatian media.

"The only thing you need is to have something to use for personal humiliation of the president of Serbia," Vucic said. "You won't see that happening."

Vucic was a fervent Serbian nationalist during the war, but now says he is a pro-European Union reformer. His two-day visit to Croatia this week is seen as an attempt to mend ties between the two Balkan rivals.

However, it has angered some people in Croatia who view their country as a victim of Serbian aggression during the Yugoslav conflict.

About 10,000 people were killed during the 1991-95 war in Croatia. Minority Serbs took control of one-third of Croatia's territory, trying to unite with Serbia.

In the 1995 speech, Vucic told a Croatian Serb gathering that if his then Serbian Radical Party came to power "you would be living in a Greater Serbia, a united Serb state and there won't be any giving up."

The war ended in a 1995 peace deal after Croatia retook the Serb-held territories in a blitz offensive that saw tens of thousands of Serbs fleeing the country.

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