Foreign Agencies on January 7th, 1997

Yugoslavians Defy Protest Ban
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, January 7, 1997 3:35 am EST

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP)
Defying a police ban on marches, opposition protesters streamed through downtown to St. Sava Cathedral, where the Serbian Patriarch, Pavle, followed the Christmas custom of burning oak branches and offered holiday greetings to the demonstrators.

The protest was one of the biggest in seven weeks of daily student and opposition party demonstrations, launched when courts controlled by Milosevic annulled local elections won by the opposition.

Opposition and student leaders said they had been invited to attend President Clinton's inauguration in Washington on Jan. 20. Washington has become increasingly critical of Milosevic for refusing to recognize the opposition election victories.

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

Sokolovic refused, saying ``police will be doing their job,'' student leader Dusan Vasiljevic said.

As of Thursday, when the holidays end, students will no longer back off when confronted by police, the leaders of the student demonstrations said.

``Serbia will explode after Jan. 9,'' Vasiljevic warned.

(c) Copyright 1997 The Associated Press

Serb Cops Stop Protest March
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, January 7, 1997 5:51 pm EST

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP)
Students called off their usual daily march because of the Christmas holiday. But beginning Thursday, their leaders say, they will no longer retreat when confronted by police, raising the prospect that the protests could again turn violent.

On Dec. 27, riot police and dozens of people in civilian clothes clubbed small groups of demonstrators as well as reporters. Dozens were injured.

(c) Copyright 1997 The Associated Press

Revelers Defy Milosevic, Refill Streets
Yugoslav Army Chief Pledges Neutrality
By Michael Dobbs
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 7 1997; Page A10
The Washington Post

Leaders of the student groups that have played a key role in the demonstrations said after meeting with army and police chiefs this morning that beginning Thursday they will attempt to march through police blockades in Belgrade -- capital of both Yugolavia and its dominant republic, Serbia.
In an attempt to win the support of the Yugoslav army, which sent tanks into Belgrade to crush protest demonstrations in 1991, student leaders met with Gen. Momcilo Perisic, chief of the general staff. He issued an ambiguous statement underlining the 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."
Student spokesmen said Gen. Perisic promised that there would be "no repeat of 1991," when the army intervened against the demonstrators. They were less happy about their meeting with Police Minister Zoran Sokolic, who turned down demands that he lift the ban on marches through Belgrade. ...

(c) Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

Los Angeles Times
Tuesday, January 7, 1997
Yugoslav Army Reportedly Pledges to Steer Clear of Street Protesters
By TRACY WILKINSON, Times Staff Writer

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia--As tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators marched through this capital Monday to mark Orthodox Christmas Eve, Serbian student leaders announced a promise from the Yugoslav army not to interfere in daily protests challenging President Slobodan Milosevic.

The reported military pledge emerged from a rare meeting between student organizers of the demonstrations and the head of the Yugoslav army. It appears to deprive Milosevic of another tool to fight his opponents, who are demanding that annulled opposition election victories be restored.

"We have reason to believe that [the] army will not use any kind of force," Dusan Vasiljevic said after he and four other student representatives met with army Chief of Staff Gen. Momcilo Perisic.

Students have been a driving force in the 50-day-old wave of unrest, and on Monday they were prominent again. Led by priests, students and other activists defied a police ban and marched through Belgrade to the city's principal church, St. Sava's Cathedral.
"We are on the same side because we both want to respect the constitution," said student spokesman Cedomir Jovanovic, who attended the meeting. Vasiljevic, the other student representative, said the group "received firm assurances that the events of 1991 will not be repeated."

In March 1991, student protests over state control of the media were quickly crushed when Milosevic rolled army tanks into the streets. Two people were killed, while scores were injured and arrested.

The army has been at odds with Milosevic for some time. Many officers blame him for losing wars in the former Yugoslav republics of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina that stranded tens of thousands of Serbs as refugees.

By offering even nominal support to the students, the army may be saying that the cause of shoring up Milosevic is no longer worth fighting for. To deal with the demonstrators, however, Milosevic has turned to a better-equipped, better-paid special police force that has remained obedient.

Copyright Los Angeles Times

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