Serbia and Croatia apologise for massacres

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Serbian President Boris Tadic has apologised for atrocities committed by Serbs in Croatia in the 1990s in a fresh effort to foster ethnic reconciliation in the turbulent Balkans.

Tadic, a reformer who already voiced his regret for all suffering caused by Serbs during the bloody break-up of communist Yugoslavia, paid a historic visit to Vukovar, a Danube river town devastated by the Serb-led Yugoslav army and militia.

He and his Croatian counterpart, Ivo Josipovic, laid wreaths at Ovcara, a mass grave of more than 200 hospital patients executed after the Yugoslav army and Serb militia captured Vukovar in November 1991, following a brutal three-month siege.

In another symbolic act the two presidents on Thursday afternoon laid wreaths at a nearby graveyard where Croatian troops captured and executed 18 Serb villagers in 1991.

Josipovic said the crime deserved to be officially condemned: "A crime was committed here in Paulin Dvor and this crime has no justification, revenge by crime is not justified. This crime deserves condemnation and the victims deserve our respect and those who are left behind deserve our apology," he said.

Croatia is still looking for around 1,000 people unaccounted for since the 1991-95 war and almost 400 of them were from Vukovar.

Tadic said Serbia had handed over all documents taken from Vukovar in 1991 to Croatian authorities.