Even as war rages in the Balkans, France has invited all five heads of state from the former Yugoslavia to ceremonies in Paris marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
President Francois Mitterrand’s office said Saturday that invitations for the May 8 event were sent to Presidents Franjo Tudjman of Croatia, Milan Kucan of Slovenia, Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia, Kiro Gligorov of Macedonia and Zoran Lilic of Yugoslavia, which now includes only Serbia and Montenegro.
Jean Musitelli, Mitterrand’s spokesman, said the current fighting in Bosnia and high tensions in wardivided Croatia had no bearing on the invitations, sent Friday.
France, angered by the recent killings of two French peacekeepers in Sarajevo, has threatened to withdraw its 4,500 soldiers from the region unless security conditions are improved and progress toward peace is made.
Four French soldiers were killed Saturday in what U.N. officials described as a munitions accident at Sarajevo airport.
Ceremonies celebrating Nazi Germany’s surrender 50 years ago also are scheduled in Britain, Germany and Russia. Britain has invited the leaders of Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia, but not Lilic, the Yugoslav leader. Germany and Russia, as of Saturday, had not announced invitations to any of the five leaders.
Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia is widely blamed for inciting Serb nationalist sentiment that sparked the wars in both Croatia and Bosnia.
Lilic is a close ally of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, the true powerbroker in the region.
France did not invite Milosevic since he is not head of a separate country.