Croatia Might Drop Genocide Lawsuit Against Serbia and Seek Settlement, Negotiator Says

Croatia might drop its suit against Serbia at the highest U.N. court and seek an out of court settlement with it, a Croatian negotiator said Wednesday, reflecting the country's skepticism about its case after the court cleared Serbia of genocide in Bosnia.

Like Bosnia, Croatia also sued Serbia at the International Court of Justice for genocide committed here during the 1991 war, when Serbia backed Croatian Serbs' armed rebellion against Croatia's independence from the ex-Yugoslavia.

Ivan Simonovic, a legal representative for Croatia at the World Court, told The Associated Press he believes that "we should try to achieve what we sought in the lawsuit in another way, in an out of court settlement. If we do not succeed, then we should stick with the lawsuit."

Simonovic's comment signals concerns in Croatia about its prospects after the court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, on Monday rejected Bosnia's claim that the Serbian state was responsible for the killings during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia.

Simonovic, who gave similar statements to state-run Croatian television and a leading daily, said he was expressing his own opinion. But Croatian officials almost never speak publicly without the government's consent and his comment likely reflects government's views.

After the ruling in the Bosnian case, the Cabinet said it was studying its potential effects on the Croatian case. But President Stipe Mesic said it showed there was "little probability" that Serbia could be accused of genocide in Croatia, adding that "justice could perhaps be satisfied in direct negotiations" with Serbia.

The speaker of parliament, Vladimir Seks, also said it was now "obvious" that Croatia would lose its case at the World Court.

The court's ruling for Bosnia sparked outrage both in Bosnia and Croatia, where most are convinced that Serbia planned and carried out the murderous campaigns in both wars.

Serbia had in the past insisted that Croatia drops the case, but it is not immediately known if it would be ready to discuss a settlement.

In the lawsuit, filed in 1999, Croatia accuses Serbia of orchestrating killings of about 10,000 Croats in the 1991 war. It was expected to seek war reparations.