SARAJEVO ( - Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo criticized "hostile NATO indifference toward Catholics in Bosnia-Hercegovina" in an interview given to the Italian newspaper Avvenire last week, following an attack on the cardinal and a group of pilgrims in Derventa, as NATO troops deployed in Bosnia-Hercegovina failed to protect the group from Serbia gangs despite prior arrangements and NATO and Serbian permits.

      "I was afraid for my life," said Cardinal Puljic. "The incident was premeditated." He emphasized that on all sides of ongoing ethnic disputes in Bosnia-Hercegovina there are individuals who oppose the return of two million refugees to their homes and seek to preserve the results of "ethnic cleansing." But, Cardinal Puljic said that the return of refugees should remain a priority.

      At a press conference in Sarajevo last week, Cardinal Puljic referred to the incident in Derventa: "It was not a spontaneous gathering of [Serbian rioters], but prearranged, and it was not refugees who came after us." He added, "The police did not stop anyone. Some attackers had been brought to Derventa by buses. The local authorities and the IPTF (international police) were aware of what was being planned." Cardinal Puljic said that soldiers who undertook the rescue operation risked their lives too, and that he was more critical of the commanders of the SFOR and the international community.

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May 1-3, 1998 volume 9, no. 85         DAILY CATHOLIC