A U.N.-sponsored team of experts has found evidence of a mass grave in Croatia containing the remains of as many as 200 people executed by Serb troops, a U.N. spokeswoman said Friday.

The excavation of the Vukovar grave could clear the way for the first war crimes trial in former Yugoslavia, with future trials of suspected war criminals in Bosnia-Herzegovina.Therese Gastaut said cold weather had prevented doctors and forensic scientists from the Boston-based organization, Physicians for Human Rights, from digging at the site near the town of Vukovar.

But initial investigations revealed a grave of "large dimensions" capable of containing 200 bodies. The victims were apparently executed at the spot, Gastaut said.

U.N. officials first found evidence of the Vukovar grave, in a cornfield near a ravine, last year. It is feared there may be additional burial sites.

Vukovar, in eastern Croatia, was attacked and reduced to rubble by the Yugoslav army and Serb paramilitary in the six-month Serb-Croat war in 1991.

It is now in an area of Croatia where U.N. peacekeepers are deployed to monitor a truce between Serbs and Croats.

After Serb forces captured Vukovar in November 1991, there were widespread accounts that about 175 patients were taken from a hospital. Wounded men and soldiers were reportedly separated from women and children and taken to the ravine, where they were killed.

The war in Croatia claimed at least 10,000 lives, including an estimated 2,500 in the three-month siege of Vukovar. Fighting flared anew Friday near the Adriatic coast.

An estimated 980 more young Croats have been missing since the siege.