NATO condemns Milosevic
"We commend the opposition for its adherence to non-violence and call upon the government to avoid any use of force against the peaceful protesters," it said.
Warning from U.S.
Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Warren
Christopher warned Milosevic he faced
international isolation unless he respected
"The people of Serbia deserve what their neighbors in central Europe have: clean elections, a free press, a normal market economy," Christopher told the meeting.
"If President Milosevic respects their will, Serbia can enjoy the legitimacy and assistance it needs. If he seeks to rule Serbia as an unreformed dictatorship, it will only increase his isolation and the suffering of his people."
An opposition coalition claimed widespread victories in the November 17 elections, winning control of Belgrade and 14 other major cities. But a Serbian court canceled the results and Milosevic has so far shown no sign of reinstating them. Following more than three weeks of protest marches, the opposition planned to boycott Tuesday's session of the Federal Parliament in Belgrade.
Christopher's words were echoed by French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette, who said NATO "must make clear to the Serb leaders that we are not ready to accept the continuation of behavior contrary to the universally accepted rules of democracy."
Will Russia join in?
Christopher was due to meet in Brussels
later on Tuesday with Russian Foreign
Minister Yevgeny Primakov in an attempt
to swing Moscow, which has traditionally
taken a pro-Serbian stance, behind
international condemnation of Belgrade.
In Washington, officials said the United States was ratcheting up pressure on Milosevic to talk to the opposition by canceling a meeting between the Serbian president and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum.
They said Kornblum had been scheduled to meet Milosevic in Belgrade later this week after the NATO meeting but decided to call it off.
"We're cutting (Milosevic) off little by little," said one official, adding that Kornblum was "doing it because he doesn't think it's useful to talk to Milosevic at this particular moment ... It's in reaction to recent events, absolutely."
Copyright 1996 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
THE leader of the anti-government demonstrations in Belgrade appealed
yesterday for negotiations with President Slobodan Milosevic to end the
The call came from Zoran Djindjic, head of the Democratic Party, the largest in the opposition coalition Zajedno (Together), as tens of thousands gathered yesterday in central Belgrade for the 21st day of protests. Demonstrators want Mr Milosevic to recognise municipal election results that gave them victory in several large Serbian towns. Mr Milosevic cancelled the results two weeks ago.
Mr Djindjic said: "A political dialogue is essential. A political compromise is possible only if we hold round-table talks designed to define the conditions of political life in Serbia." Earlier efforts at mediation carried out by Belgrade-based diplomats had failed, diplomatic sources said.
Mr Djindjic's call signalled a shift in policy for the opposition, which has previously demanded that Mr Milosevic must recognise their electoral successes or step down. Vuk Draskovic, a fellow opposition leader, has said Mr Milosevic must either resign or be forced out following a decision by the Supreme Court not to uphold the opposition's complaints about the annulment of the polls.
The olive branch was offered as fresh rumours spread in Belgrade that workers, a potentially key element in the anti-government demonstrations, were preparing to join the protest. It was reported by the opposition that workers in the industrial area of New Belgrade had set out to join the protest but were stopped by police.
The crowd has grown in recent days inspired by vocal Western backing and angered as details emerge of a savage beating that a student received at the hands of the police after being taken into custody at the weekend.
Mr Milosevic has appeared uncompromising in recent days but a source close to the president said yesterday that, initially, he had been willing to recognise his electoral defeat. He had been persuaded "by advisers" to cancel the election.
The source said: "Socialist Party strongmen persuaded him that he could get away with cancelling the elections. But it seems to have misfired. All the reforms of the past three years are going down the drain."
Analysts in Belgrade, who confidently predicted that Mr Milosevic would find a legal loophole to offer the opposition a compromise, have been dumbfounded by the president's silence. Mr Milosevic rejected an agreement that would have guaranteed press freedoms offered to him by Kati Marton, wife of the former US envoy Richard Holbrooke, at the weekend.
Ms Marton said: "I handed the document to him and told him that it would go a very long way towards mending his image in the West. He proceeded to tear it up."
Time was, when you heard the words "student protest" you could be pretty
sure that the cause was either something numbingly parochial, like lower
textbook fees, or hitched to what it now sounds almost quaint to call
"the Left." Some of the latter examples were heartrending, especially
when young people died trying to topple brutal rightist regimes for the
sake of communist dictatorships. But times have changed. The thousands of
students now marching through the freezing streets of Belgrade, or
dodging military police in Rangoon, are part of a new breed that takes
orders from no one. Though their governments regard them as renegades,
the only status quo they want to tear down is the one in their own
country. What's driving students today is the determination to be just
like the rest of the world that is free and democratic.
You don't have to picture the tanks and bloodshed at Tiananmen Square to understand that the demonstrating students in Burma and Serbia are doing something dangerous. They may be emboldened by the knowledge--gained through the same media, like the Internet, by which they inform us about themselves--that the watching world will act as kind of restraint upon trigger happy authorities. But students protesting the annulment of November 17 municipal election results in Serbia know exactly what kind of opponent they have in socialist President Slobodan Milosevic. The man who instigated a war to postpone his day of democratic reckoning is not going to give up easily now.
In Burma, the protest may be more diffuse: Some students are calling for more rights on campus while others are demanding human rights and an end to "unfair government." But there cannot be a soul in Rangoon of any age who fails to understand that if another military crackdown comes, like the crushing blows against the democracy movement after 1988, the truncheons will not discriminate among protesters.
This is not to say that the students are driven by a desire for martyrdom. They may have the stamina, optimism and occasionally reckless energy that are the hallmarks of youth. If anything, however, their comments indicate a sober, pitiably stark assessment of their options. "If we don't win this battle, we'll lose the war for our future," one Serbian student told the AP. If I want a normal life, I have no choice but to join the protests, explained another: "No one will help me if I don't help myself."