Foreign Agencies on February 22th, 1997

Students Protest in Belgrade
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, February 22, 1997 3:16 pm EST

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) -- University students marched noisily through Belgrade on Saturday, vowing to continue their protests even though a non-communist city government has been installed and the opposition has called off its marches.

"We are above the regime and above the opposition," student leader Cedomir Jovanovic told the Demokratija newspaper in an interview published Saturday, adding that the students' movement "will end triumphantly."

Protests led by students and the opposition coalition Zajedno, or Together, began last November when President Slobodan Milosevic's regime annulled opposition victories in Nov. 17 local elections.

The students have tried to keep their daily protests independent of those organized by Zajedno, although their demands were essentially the same, beginning with the restoration of the opposition victories.

That demand eventually was met, and new opposition-led local governments have taken power and provisionally called off their protests against Milosevic.

But the students are continuing their demonstrations. About 5,000 students held their 93rd consecutive day of protests Saturday with a march through the city. Their main demand now is that the hard-line, pro-Milosevic Belgrade University rector, Dragutin Velickovic, and his deputy be replaced.

At its inaugural session Friday, Belgrade's new city assembly elected Zoran Djindjic, one of three Zajedno leaders, mayor. The United States praised the vote, but warned it was only the first step in Serbia's transition toward democracy.
"This is their chance to show if they can govern," said Dragan Vasiljevic, a spokesman for the student protesters. "If they gain the people's trust, they may win in the next elections ... which will be crucial, which will shape the future of Serbia in the next 15-20 years."

(c) Copyright 1997 The Associated Press

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