Croatian papers display some sympathy towards Croatian war crimes suspect Ante Gotovina following his arrest in the Canary Islands - with one Serbian daily suggesting the timing of the arrest is an attempt to put pressure on Serbia and Montenegro to arrest its own war crimes indictees.
Many Croatians took to the streets in a show of support for the general
Gen Gotovina is now set to face the United Nations tribunal in The Hague after he is transferred from Spain.
"Gotovina's arrest - sacrifice for Croatia," reads a headline in the
Zagreb-based daily Vecernji list.
The paper sees the arrest as one of the final chapters in the break-up of former Yugoslavia.
It argues that Croatia had "to pay for its 'separatist' policy and drive for independence by taking its part of the blame for the disappearance of the former Yugoslavia, which the West so eagerly supported after the first and second world wars".
"The government and those who opposed Gotovina can now breathe a sigh of relief," the daily says, adding that "it's all finished now".
The government ought to provide legal and other assistance to help Gotovina defend himself, the paper believes.
"By doing this and helping Gotovina prove his innocence, the government will best serve Croatia's interest. But the real question now is whether the government will be as successful in this as in pursuing a great soldier."
"The farce has ended" reads a headline in the Rijeka-based daily, Novi list.
Under the headline "Gotovina - a Christmas bonus" - playing the pun on Gotovina's surname which also means cash - the paper says the arrest comes as a gift for the Christmas stockings of UN prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader.
"There was nothing spectacular about the arrest," it says. "Those in power who are now shedding crocodile tears pretending to be 'surprised' knew all along what was coming.
"Gotovina, whose guilt the tribunal has yet to prove, is not only a victim of his own military conduct, but also of a mistaken policy."
The daily claims that Gotovina's escape had been engineered so that the whole country "could be kept hostage over EU accession talks".
"Gotovina has been a victim of manipulation" both by the left and the right, it continues, adding that Gotovina's erstwhile protectors have suddenly woken up to "the rule of law".
But parliament, the paper adds, will never admit that the country has ended up in the Hague dock, not because of its military but because of its successive governments.
Zagreb-based Vjesnik quotes the prime minister as saying that the arrest vindicates Croatia, which had always maintained that Gotovina was not in the country.
In Serbia, the Belgrade-based tabloid Blic questions the timing of the arrest.
The daily speculates that the Hague tribunal had known since November the whereabouts of Gotovina, but waited for the right moment to arrest him in order to "further pressure" Serbia-Montenegro over Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic.
Under the headline, "False passport gives Gotovina away", the paper reports on the sequence of events which led to the arrest.
Another Serbian paper, Politika, sticks to a factual report.
Under the headline "Ante Gotovina arrested", it focuses on Carla Del Ponte's unscheduled news conference at which she reported "the good news" about the arrest and her anger that Ratko Mladic was still at large, which she called "really scandalous".
Another daily, Glas Javnosti, offers a biography of Gotovina and details of the Hague indictment on the alleged crimes committed by Gotovina's forces against Serbs in self-proclaimed region of Krajina in 1995.
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