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Serbian leader apologies for atrocities

VUKOVAR, Croatia - Serbian President Boris Tadic apologized yesterday at the site where more than 200 Croats were massacred, offering the strongest condemnation to date by a leader from Serbia of wartime atrocities committed by the country.

Laying a wreath at Ovcara, a former pig farm where a mass grave remains a painful symbol for Croats of Serb brutality during the 1991 ethnic war, Tadic said he came to "bow down before the victims." "By acknowledging the crime, by apologizing and regretting, we are opening the way for forgiveness and reconciliation," Tadic said.

A few hours later, Croatian counterpart Ivo Josipovic laid a wreath at the graveyard of 18 Serbs killed by Croats in 1991 in a nearby village of Paulin Dvor and Josipovic said that "those who are left behind those victims deserve our apology."

"A crime has no justification; revenge cannot be justified by a crime," Josipovic said. The slaying in Paulin Dvor came a month after the massacre at Ovcara.

Though relations between the neighbors have vastly improved, the two presidents' joint tour of the killing sites and apologies offer a symbolic step of reconciliation after years of mutual accusations over atrocities. Tadic is the first Serb leader to visit Ovcara, the site of one of the worst massacres of the Balkan conflicts that followed the post-communism breakup of Yugoslavia.

Accompanied by Josipovic, Tadic said the two of them visited the site near the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar "to create the possibility that Croats and Serbs can turn a new page of history." More than 200 Croats were executed at Ovcara after Serb soldiers dragged them out of a local hospital.

- AP

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