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Last Updated: Monday, 23 April 2007, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Croatian mines replaced by wines
By Nicholas Walton
BBC News, Ilok, Croatia

Vineyard near Ilok
Croatia wants to restore the area's reputation for fine wines
Some of the best-known vineyards in Croatia have reopened after being cleared of mines left over from the war of the early 1990s.

The former leader of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, owned a villa among the vines, which was used as a base by the notorious Serbian war criminal, Arkan.

The Ilok vineyards by the Danube river, overlooking Serbia, lie near Vukovar, where bitter fighting took place.

The vineyards are already producing wines, including the famous Traminac.

The area is full of history. Marshal Tito used his villa as a base for hunting expeditions and as a refuge from the pressures of running Yugoslavia.

During the break-up of that country in the early 1990s the town of Vukovar became a battlefield. More than 1,000 Croats were killed and dumped in mass graves.

Landmines were laid by both sides. The Serbian paramilitary group known as Arkan's Tigers used Tito's villa as their headquarters for raids into Bosnia. When they left they scattered more mines throughout the area and dynamited the villa.

The building still lies in ruins, but now, all these years later, the mines have at last been cleared.

Croatia map
At a ceremony to mark the achievement, US ambassador Bob Bradtke said Croatia had "inherited a terrible problem of mines, so in order to put this land back into productive use it's very important to get the mines out".

He praised the "really wonderful Croatian wine, Traminac, Sylvana, Grasavina".

It will take around three years before the last areas to be cleared of mines produce grapes that can be used for the region's famous white wines.

Traminac has been made since 1710, and was served at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Despite the blood that was shed in this area just over a decade ago, Serbian workers now cross the Danube to work alongside Croatians in the vineyards.

Country profile: Croatia
19 Apr 07 |  Country profiles

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