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The BBC's James Robbins reports
"His Croat patriotism was the key to his power"
 real 28k

The BBC's Andre Vornic reports
"Many in Croatia will mourn him as a nation builder and a man with a vision"
 real 28k

Saturday, 11 December, 1999, 22:14 GMT
Tears for Croatian president

A police officer cries as the motorcade passes


Tens of thousands of mourners have been paying tribute to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman following his death at the age of 77.

Mr Tudjman, who led Croatia to independence, ruled with an iron fist for nine years, shaping the country as it threw off its communist past and split from Yugoslavia.

Croatia has declared a three-day period of national mourning.



The great heart of Franjo Tudjman, statesman and first president of independent and sovereign Croatia, has stopped beating.
Interim President Vlatko Pavletic
Mr Tudjman died at 2315 (2215 GMT) on Friday at the Dubrava clinic in the capital Zagreb, a government spokesman said.

His body, in a coffin draped with a Croatian flag, was transferred on Saturday to the presidential palace where it will lie in state until his funeral on Monday.

Huge crowds of mourners lined the route of the procession. Some sobbed and many crossed themselves as the hearse passed by.

Family members, including his widow Ankica, followed the coffin inside the palace.

Thousands of people later queued up outside to pay their respects.

Symbol of determination

Interim President Vlatko Pavletic announced Mr Tudjman's death in a brief address on national television.

Mr Pavletic said: "His merits in shaping our most recent history, in fulfilling the dream of numerous generations, are undeniable. He will remain a symbol of determination."

Mr Tudjman is said to have been fighting cancer for three years. He had been in hospital since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery at the beginning of November.

His doctors said they had been treating him for internal bleeding and other medical complications after the operation.

Worthy farewell

Mr Tudjman, a former Yugoslav army general, became president of Croatia in 1990, when it was still a Yugoslav republic, and led it to independence in 1992.


Franjo Tudjman:
Croatian hero
1922 Born in Veliko Trgovisce, north-west Croatia
1941 Joined partisans fighting Nazis in Croatia
1960 Promoted to the Yugoslav army general staff
1961 Leaves army to study history
1989 Formed Christian Democratic Union party
1990 Elected president
1992 Croatia becomes independent
1996 First indication of health problems
His second term as president was to run until June 2002.

State television and radio interrupted regular programmes to announce his death early on Saturday.

Television programmes were replaced with a broadcast of Mozart's Requiem and documentaries about Mr Tudjman's life.

All public entertainments and cultural events have been banned until the funeral. Businesses, schools and offices will remain closed on Monday.

Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa told ministers at a second cabinet meeting in 12 hours. "We have to decide on...a farewell worthy of the greatest son of the Croatian nation."

While economic hardships have caused his Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) to lose popularity in recent years, Mr Tudjman remained a highly-regarded figure.

Political turmoil

News of his death comes at a sensitive time, with parliamentary elections due in January. There has been no announcement so far as to whether those elections will go ahead.


late president FranjoTudjman Mr Tudjman: The father of the nation
Although Mr Tudjman had been ill for some time, his death will have an enormous impact as he has dominated Croatia for so many years and has no obvious successor.

BBC central Europe correspondent Nick Thorpe says it will be very difficult for the people of Croatia to imagine life without the "father of the nation".

Under the Croatian constitution a presidential election must now be held within 60 days. Our correspondent says a period of political turmoil now seems likely.

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See also:
11 Dec 99 |  Europe
In pictures: Croatia mourns
11 Dec 99 |  Europe
Franjo Tudjman: Father of Croatia
26 Nov 99 |  Europe
Analysis: Contemplating life without Tudjman
01 Dec 99 |  Europe
Who will lead Croatia after Tudjman?

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