Foreign Agencies on January 6th, 1997

Serb Army Guarantees Students
Associated Press Writer
Monday, January 6, 1997 6:56 am EST

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) -- Serbian students said they received guarantees from the military chief Monday that the army would not block their seven-week-old pro-democracy protests against President Slobodan Milosevic.

"We got firm assurances it will be so, and we are very pleased," said Dusan Vasiljevic, one of the students who met Gen. Momcilo Perisic, head of the powerful Yugoslav army, at the army's downtown headquarters.

An statement read by Vasiljevic said the army wanted political disputes solved peacefully and Serb-led Yugoslavia to fully rejoin the international community.

The army has so far remained neutral in the widespread protests against Milosevic's annulment of Nov. 17 local elections -- the greatest threat to his authority since he took office nine years ago. However, there have been indications the military is turning against him.
Prior to Monday's meeting, students said they would ask Perisic not to allow ``further diminishing of importance'' of the army in Serbia.

In recent days, the Serbian president has deployed his well-equipped riot police in Belgrade and other towns in Serbia to prevent opposition demonstrators from marching through the city.

The students also asked for a meeting Monday with Serbia's police chief, Zoran Sokolovic, to demand the removal of the police from Belgrade streets.
Milosevic and his allies won parliamentary elections in early November. However, when the opposition Zajedno coalition appeared to win the Nov. 17 runoffs for local offices in most large cities, including Belgrade, Milosevic canceled the results. That sparked protests by students and opposition party supporters.

(c) Copyright 1997 The Associated Press

Army Chief Indirectly Backs Democracy Movement

(10:41 01/06/97) BELGRADE (Reuter) - The Yugoslav army commander met students in the Serbian opposition movement Monday and indirectly backed its campaign to restore opposition election victories annulled by the government.

After seven weeks of street protests that have rocked the autocratic rule of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, the West has told him to democratize Yugoslavia or face international isolation.

Sympathy for the students' cause from General Momcilo Perisic, chief of the Yugoslav army general staff, was the latest gesture of solidarity for opposition activists from members of the Serbian establishment.

Perisic told them that under the constitution the army stayed out of politics.

But he said he favored a democratic solution to the crisis that would help Yugoslavia rejoin Europe.

"General Perisic underlined the Yugoslav Army's ... special interest in seeing that all current problems are overcome within the legal institutions of the system in a manner deployed in democratic countries," an army statement issued by the official news agency Tanjug said.

Such an approach was necessary to secure Yugoslavia's re-entry to the international community, it said.
The army's message was couched to avoid open endorsement of the opposition Zajedno (Together) coalition. But it effectively criticised Milosevic's annulment of the elections by demanding respect for international democratic norms.
Cedomir Jovanovic, spokesman for the five-member student delegation that met Perisic for 30 minutes, said the general bolstered the opposition's campaign by calling for the rule of law to be observed in Serbia.

"We have found ourselves on the same side since both they and we demand that the constitution be observed," Jovanovic told independent Belgrade radio B-92.

Dusan Vasiljevic, another student leader, said Perisic promised there would be "no repeat of 1991" when Milosevic ordered tanks into Belgrade to crush an outbreak of demonstrations for democratic change.

Yugoslav army chief backs 'democratic' end to crisis
January 6, 1997
Web posted at: 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT)

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (Reuter)

General tells students 'no repeat of 1991'

Dusan Vasiljevic, a spokesman for the five-member student delegation that met Perisic for 30 minutes, said Perisic promised there would be "no repeat of 1991" when Milosevic ordered tanks into Belgrade to crush an outbreak of demonstrations for democratic change.

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

(c) 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.

Students March, Defy Serb Army
Associated Press Writer
Monday, January 6, 1997 5:46 pm EST

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP)
Students and opposition members have protested daily for seven weeks since Milosevic-controlled courts annulled local elections won by the opposition.

On Monday, Serbia's students received assurances from the military chief that the army would not intervene in their protests. The army also released a statement saying it wanted political disputes resolved peacefully.

Student leaders unsuccessfully sought similar assurances from the head of the police, Zoran Sokolovic, who has sent thousands of riot police out against the demonstrators.

Sokolovic "doesn't even consider removing police from the streets," student leader Dusan Vasiljevic said. He said Sokolovic insisted that "police will be doing their job."

Leaders of the student demonstrations said that, as of Thursday, they would no longer back off when confronted by police. The students usually demonstrate before the daily opposition marches.

"Serbia will explode after Jan. 9," Vasiljevic warned.

Riot police stayed away from Monday's march, apparently in recognition of the holiday.

(c) Copyright 1997 The Associated Press

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