Foreign Agencies on January 1st, 1997

Students Fuel Yugo Democracy Call
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, January 1, 1997 1:49 pm EST

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) -- Fueled with caffeine, cigarettes and much of the nation's admiration, students have become the engine driving Serbia's pro-democracy movement.

Students have kept themselves outside the atmosphere of hatred and mistrust that pervades today's Serbia -- between President Slobodan Milosevic and the political opposition, between haves and have-nots, between city slickers and rural residents.

They provide the good-humored choreography, costumes and props that have turned protest into political theater. Their marshals keep order on the streets. Their ideas give steam to the demonstrations, now in their sixth week.

And, unlike opposition politicians, they enjoy unqualified public support.

``These young people are the only innocent people in this society,'' said Sonja Biserko, the head of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia. ``They're not responsible for Milosevic being in power for 10 years.''

Many Serbs are angry at Milosevic for starting wars in Bosnia and Croatia, and for encouraging international isolation with his extreme nationalist views and policies. They are angry, too, at foreign governments for imposing economic sanctions that brought a brisk end to the comfortable life many people once enjoyed.

But no one seems to dislike the students.

People are impressed by their good humor, discipline, clear thinking, and by their faith in Serbia's democratic future -- faith that kept them from leaving the country, like some 200,000 young Serbs have over the past six years.

Zoran Mitic, a 30-year-old taxi driver, got out of his car recently to watch a stream of student protesters march past. He didn't mind losing fares. The students, he said, are ``the ones who want to live in this country, the people whom this country should rely on, the people who still think with their heads.''

When Milosevic decided to meet with opponents last month, it wasn't with his political foes. He chose a group of students from Nis, who had walked 150 miles to talk to him.

On New Year's Eve, student delegates went to his neighborhood in hopes of presenting a pro-democracy message, but police turned them back.

The students have been careful to distance themselves publicly from the political opposition, which Milosevic backers accuse of inciting civil war and which skeptics claim expresses the same aggressive nationalism that sparked wars in Croatia and Bosnia.

``Ours isn't a partisan protest, but it is a political protest,'' said student spokesman Vojislav Filipovic, a 19-year-old archeology major at Belgrade University.

Still, many of the student leaders belong to the Democratic Party, which is part of the opposition coalition Zajedno, or Together. And the students seem to work in cooperation with the party. The daily student protest, starting at noon, serves as a warm-up act for opposition demonstrations.

For a New Year's protest Wednesday night, students booked drummers and said Belgrade's two independent radio stations would broadcast their rhythms. They called on supporters to bang on water pipes and windows in hopes of drowning out state TV's 7:30 p.m. newscast.

Milan Bozic, an adviser to opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, said the students served as ``mediators'' between the coalition's supporters and middle-class Serbs unsure about the opposition.

The students ``are helping us a lot,'' Bozic said.

Students have kept their demands narrow: reinstatement of Nov. 17 local elections the opposition won, resignation of several Milosevic supporters among Belgrade University rectors, and removal of the Serbian interior minister.

Filipovic, the student spokesman, says he and his peers learned from the mistakes of the 1992 student movement, which had called for Milosevic's resignation. This generation, he said, knows the limits of what it can achieve.

Demonstrators in 1992 blockaded themselves in university buildings. But today's protesters invite -- and receive -- support from all citizens. The students have a wide following: their parents, grandparents, professors and the legions of people who lean out apartment windows to cheer them on.

Few would be surprised if Milosevic were to crack down on the political opposition. Police have beaten dozens of people already. Milosevic supporters killed one demonstrator, and shot and wounded another.

So far, Milosevic has left the students alone.

``There's a difference in the way he treats us,'' Filipovic said. ``Either he's afraid of us, or respects us more than the opposition protesters.''

(c) Copyright 1997 The Associated Press

Yugo Students Protest TV News
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, January 1, 1997 4:25 pm EST

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) -- In a cacophony of drums, cymbals, spoons and whistles, Belgrade students carried their protest to state television Wednesday night, symbolically drowning out the evening news broadcast.

For the first time in days, police allowed the approximately 5,000 protesters to march through the capital.

After a police ban was imposed last week, the protests had been confined to a pedestrian zone. On Wednesday night, only a few plainclothes police monitored the crowd.

As news spread that the police were not blocking the march, more students and opposition supporters joined the crowd, which grew to at least 8,000.

For the past six weeks, students and the political opposition have been protesting the government's annulment of Nov. 17 local elections that the opposition won.

The students called on fellow Serbs to join their noisy protest against state television, which they accused of spouting propaganda in favor of Serbia's authoritarian president, Slobodan Milosevic.

``We want to save people from listening to state news,'' said Rastko Seic, a Belgrade University student. ``This is the final rehearsal for the biggest drum performance, which we are planning for one of these days.''

At 7:30 p.m., when state television's main newscast started, Belgrade residents opened their apartment windows and blew whistles, banged on walls and threw fire crackers. The marchers wended through the streets to the television building.

``Thieves! Red bandits!,'' they jeered, and pelted the building with firecrackers and snowballs.

(c) Copyright 1997 The Associated Press

Despite bitter cold, marchers return to Belgrade streets
January 1, 1997
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EST (0400 GMT)

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- About 5,000 university students marched in Belgrade's main square Wednesday, banging drums, pots and pans in support of Serbia's opposition government. Their demonstration coincided with the start of evening news in Belgrade; students said they were trying to drown out the news, which has given little coverage to the protests since they began six weeks ago.

Their numbers were far fewer than then tens of thousands regularly drawn to the protests just a week ago, partly because there is now a police ban on rallies. The decline is also partially blamed on the chilling temperatures seen across Europe this week.

Correspondent Steve Harrigan and Reuters contributed to this report.
(c) 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.

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