Delegations of the Croatian President, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), veterans' associations and family members on Thursday laid wreaths and lit candles at the grave of Croatia's first president Franjo Tudjman.

Tudjman became president in 1990 after his HDZ won the first post-communist party elections and a year later he proclaimed Croatia's independence. He remained in power until his death on 10 December 1999.

HDZ secretary-general Milijan Brkic  told the press that Tudjman was the greatest Croat in the history of the Croatian people and that the Croatian state was created under his leadership and according to his vision. Asked to comment on change in rhetoric during the election campaign and the proposal of the Social Democrats (SDP( to name Zagreb Airport after Tudjman, Brkic said that the HDZ had known from the beginning that Tudjman, the Homeland War and war veterans were the foundations stones of the Croatian state.

A member of Parliament and Tudjman's son, Miroslav Tudjman, said his father had enjoyed undivided political and public support until his death. He added that the present political crisis was the result of the fact that there was still no consensus in the country about the fundamental values and about those who deserved credit for the creation of Croatia.. He also said that naming Zagreb Airport after Franjo Tudjman would be a good message and a test which will show if this was just another SDP election stunt.

After today's session of the government, reporters also asked government members about Tudjman's role. Enterprise Minister Gordan Maras and Administration Minister Arsen Bauk positively assessed the role of the first Croatian president and his contribution to the country's independence.

"President Franjo Tudjman is one of the most deserving individuals for the creation of the Republic of Croatia," Maras said, adding that he should be honoured and remembered in a positive light.

Franjo Tudjman died from stomach cancer and a series of surgical complications at the end of his second term as head of state. He was 77.

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