The London Times July 9, 1991 Serbs stay on alert for violence by Croatians From Tim Judah in Tenja, Croatia AFTER the compromise on Yugoslavia achieved by the European Community at the weekend's Brioni talks, a degree of cautious optimism prevailed in Belgrade and West European capitals yesterday. But in Osijek and its Serb-populated suburb of Tenja, they were preparing for war. Council workers cleaned anti-aircraft guns mounted on lorries outside sandbagged municipal buildings, while people walked their dogs, sunbathed and fished in the river. In Tenja they were still bracing themselves for a Croatian attack. In Osijek, Commander Igor Vrandecic of the Croatian National Guard said: ''In Brioni they have been thinking and talking. But I think it's time to fight.'' Commander Vrandecic had already spent Sunday fighting. As the three European ministers talked peace on the Adriatic island, an eight-hour battle raged at Tenja between Croatian forces and armed locals. The Croats claim that they entered Tenja on Sunday morning to flush out Cetniks, Serb extremists who are intent on building a greater Serbia out of the ruins of Yugoslavia, and that they had been attacked. The Serbs of Tenja said it was they who were attacked by Croats intent on pushing out the people living in Serb enclaves in eastern Croatia. The battle cost at least eight lives and ended only after the army intervened. The Croats claim that the army came in on the side of the Serbs. The Serbs say that there are no Cetniks in Tenja a typically dismal Slavonian story. To enter Tenja you must pass three Croatian road blocks. They are staffed by police and heavily armed men in plainclothes. In the middle of the town two federal army tanks point towards the Croatian positions. To pass the tanks you negotiate with Serbian militiamen on a barricade consisting of a combine harvester. Bullet-ridden lorries and cars strewn over the road bear witness to the ferocity of the battle. Tenja is a prosperous suburban village of neat houses and vegetable gardens. Yesterday afternoon the flies buzzed over the blood on a doorstep in Dravska Street. The last body had just been removed and chickens clucked in the neighbouring garden. Hundreds of spent cartridges lay scattered around the house which, with saucepans still on the oven and bullet-holes through the clock, gave an impression of a macabre Marie Celeste. Most gruesome of all was the large ice-cream fridge outside the shot-up grocery shop next door. It was riddled with bullet holes and spattered with blood and still working. An old woman stopped outside Tenja town hall: ''I haven't been able to get to my house. The Croats are stealing everything; they want to kill us with a wave of terror.'' Zarko Cubrilo, aged 48, said that he had lost his job after 20 years as a building supervisor. He said that all the Croats in his company had kept their jobs. ''Many of us have been sacked because they want an ethnically clean Croatia. '' Mr Cubrilo said that Croatia's ruling party wanted ''either to conquer us and make us loyal citizens who will only be allowed to sweep the streets, or kick us out''. Few people here put much faith in peace talks. ''This will continue until we separate: Croats on one side, Serbs on the other,'' Mr Cubrilo said.