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Croatia's Toehold in Bosnia Seen as Peace's Achilles Heel

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Every night, the television news anchors at Croatian state television deliver the news in front of a giant map of the region. Croatia is highlighted in bright green. But so is Bosnia's Muslim-Croat Federation, which shares a long border with Croatia. On longer-shots the two blur together, forming the 'Greater Croatia' nationalists here have been dreaming of.

That dream may be coming closer to reality. As the peace process dictated by the 1995 Dayton accord stumbles forward, Croatia is quietly subverting the integration of the Muslim-Croat Federation, on which the success of Dayton depends.

Sources say Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, who continues to nurture a de facto Croat ministate in Bosnia, now represents one of the greatest obstacles to the peace plan.

"The real threat to Dayton in Bosnia-Herzegovina is not from the Serbs," a UN source in Zagreb says. "The real problem is getting Tudjman to drag the Bosnian Croats in line. But the guy lives in a dream world, surrounded by sycophants, and has a vision in his mind of a Greater Croatia, which, at this time is a greater threat than a Greater Serbia."

Bosnian Serbs and Croats both maintain ethnically pure ministates bordering on their respective motherlands. Both groups generally oppose integration into a multiethnic Bosnia. In this sense, Greater Serbia and Greater Croatia have already come into existence with the Bosnian Muslims sandwiched in between.

"Tudjman says he supports the Dayton agreement when he talks with international people," says Karl Gorinsek, general-secretary of Croatia's opposition Social-Liberal Party.

"But in reality what was won by force of arms will not be turned over to any other power," he says.

On paper, the Dayton accords established two Bosnian "entities" - the Muslim-Croat Federation, and the Serb's Republika Srpska - joined together under a weak central government. On the ground, the Federation has so far failed to come together, due to the continued existence of Herceg-Bosna, the Bosnian Croat's unrecognized ministate.

Herceg-Bosna, which controls Sarajevo's access to the sea and overland routes to the rest of Europe, functions as an extraterritorial extension of Croatia proper.

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