News for January 3rd, 1997

Yugoslav Foreign Minister, Milan Milutinovic, today sent a letter to Danish Foreign Minister, Niels Helveg Petersen, Chairman of the OSCE, concerning the report of the OSCE delegation on the municipal elections in Serbia. The letter reads:

Dear Mr. Minister,
We have been acquainted with the Report of Mr. Felipe Gonzalez, Personal Representative of the Chairman-in-Office and the head of the delegation of the OSCE who visited the FR of Yugoslavia on 21 December 1996.

As it has been pointed out both in the Report and in the letter of Mr. Gonzalez, this visit took place at the invitation of the Federal Government that a high ranking delegation of the OSCE should visit the FR of Yugoslavia in order to be directly and truthfully informed about all facts related to the elections for the organs of local self-government in Serbia and that a completely erroneous picture created by a part of international public about these elections be removed.

We are glad that Mr. Gonzalez has noted both in his Report and in his personal letter to the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on 27 December that the delegation of the OSCE, during its short visit, met without any obstacles and discussed in a frank and open manner with the representatives of all political parties, institutions and of the judiciary of the Republic of Serbia and the Government of the FR of Yugoslavia.

The clear position of Mr. Gonzalez that he was not an arbiter and that he did not want to arbitrate, emphasized both during his visit to Belgrade and at the presentation of his Report in Geneva, is particularly appreciated. As a sovereign State which autonomously solves its internal questions, we could not understand any different position.

We consider that it is of substantial importance that the delegation of the OSCE has established in its Report that the elections for the organs of local self-government, "considered in their entirety, reflected the will of the majority of the citizens of the FRY." The delegation has also noted that "the candidates of the coalition SPS, JUL and ND, won the majority of the popular votes in the elections held in Serbia, reflecting the free will of its citizens." Thus, the allegations of some opposition parties, as well as of a part of international public and media, that the elections for the organs of local self-government were annulled because, allegedly, these opposition parties won the elections, have been denied.

We consider that the free multi-party elections in Serbia confirm most comprehensively the strong democratic tradition and long experience in developing stable democratic institutions in Serbia. All these democratic institutions have proved that vitality and the ability to ensure to all citizens to enjoy and protect their inalienable rights and freedoms even in the most difficult conditions such as the change of the political system, breaking up of the former common state of the SFRY, war conflicts in the neighborhood of the FRY, provision of shelter and assistance to almost a million of refugees, embargo against the FRY and its isolation. This confirms that universal values are affirmed in Serbia, including those of the Paris Charter.

According to our assessment, the approach of Mr. Gonzalez deserves to be supported first of all because it calls upon, in a constructive manner, all factors to tolerant dialogue, transparent discussion and to the solution of the problems in a democratic way, i.e. that the problems be solved within the institutions of the system, through implementation of "the adequate procedures and in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation," which de facto means within the multi-party Parliament.

The fact that certain opposition parties won the majority in assemblies of a number of municipalities in Serbia, is nothing new for any citizen of Serbia. It was not a novelty even when they won the majority in a much greater number of municipalities at the elections for the organs of local self-government four years ago than at the present local elections.

In respect of the municipalities mentioned under para 7 of the Report of Mr. Felipe Gonzalez, we would like to inform you that according to the data at our disposal, the situation is as follows:
I. With respect to 13 municipalities mentioned in the report:
a) The coalition "Zajedno" won and has already constituted the local organs in the municipalities of: Uzice, Kragujevac and Zrenjanin
b) In the municipalities of Pirot, Pancevo, Jagodina no party won the majority, and the assemblies have not been constituted yet;
c) In the municipalities of Kraljevo, Smederevska Palanka, Vrsac, Soko Banja, Lapovo and Sabac SPS and JUL won the majority;
d) In the municipality of Nis the situation is being thoroughly studied. When competent authorities establish the facts, the results of the elections will be known, i.e. the measures which will be undertaken in accordance with the results of the current procedure and under the regulations in force.
II. With respect to 9 municipalities in Belgrade
The coalition "Zajdeno" won the majority in the 9 municipalities in Belgrade.

As it can be seen from this short list, compared to the list of the municipalities mentioned under para 7b of the Report of Mr. Gonzalez, the data concerning the six municipalities mentioned above are significantly different from the data used by the delegation of Mr. Gonzalez. For the purpose of verification, comparison and complete clarification it would be very useful if you could provide to our authorities to the data you have at your disposal for the municipalities of Kraljevo, Smederevska Palanka, Vrsac, Soko Banja, Lapovo and Sabac. You can be certain that each detail will be studied with full responsibility by the competent authorities.

The call expressed in the Report that the will of the citizens be respected is substantially our basic position we are committed to. However, it is obvious that all this should be established within the legal institutions, on the basis of law and regulations of the Republic of Serbia.

Furthermore, we wish to emphasize that the very nature of the elections for the organs of local self-government in the Republic of Serbia implies, according to our system, that local elections are started and finished at the local level, and that the authorities of the State according to our legal system neither have the right to influence these elections nor do they exert such influence. The only organs i.e. institutions, authorized to solve the problems which may occur during the election procedure, are the regular courts. These institutions are obliged to carefully study each new fact or shortcoming which is established and not to make a decision thereof. There is no doubt that these institutions will act accordingly with respect to the municipalities concerned, the number of which is quite small compared to the total number of 189 municipalities in Serbia.

In the letter of Mr. Gonzalez sent to Minister Cotti it has been mentioned that the elections in some municipalities were repeated for reasons "which are not in a whole of a serious nature." We do not deny the fact that the experience of the latest, as well as of the previous elections have proved that it is necessary to amend some regulations thereof. This is definitely one of the questions to be discussed at the proposed multi-party panel discussion. However, as long as these regulations are in force, and they were in force at the past local elections, there is no dilemma that they must be respected. We agree with the position of Mr. Gonzalez that these problems should be solved "through implementation of the adequate procedures and in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation." We wish to point our that the Parliament of Serbia has established a panel where the representatives of the parliamentary parties will have an opportunity to discuss exactly in the spirit of "dialogue and cooperation" all questions concerning the elections, the role of media and other questions, in front of the public and with live TV broadcasting and to submit appropriate proposals to the Parliament of Serbia.

Allow me to reaffirm at the end of our assessment that the visit of the delegation of the OSCE headed by the distinguished Mr. Felipe Gonzalez and realized at the invitation of the Federal Government of the FR Yugoslavia, has been, according to our deep conviction, useful and positive and that it has contributed to the affirmation of the facts and thus to the removal of the distorted picture created by a part of international public. This is a confirmation that it is in the common interest of both our county and the OSCE that the FR of Yugoslavia be allowed to renew, as soon as possible, its status in the OSCE, in order to eliminate an anomaly which is contrary to the objectives of the OSCE. We expect that a Yugoslav representative will have an opportunity to participate on equal basis in the forthcoming discussions about the Report of Mr. Gonzalez at the session of the Standing Committee of the OSCE.

Please accept, dear colleague, the expressions of my high consideration.

Milan Milutinovic

Radio B92 learned today from sources close to Gonzalez's commission, that the letter by Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic to OSCE Chairman Niels Petersen is still under consideration. One European diplomat, however, who insisted on staying anonymous, has told Radio B92 that the text of the letter by the Yugoslav Foreign Minister is imprudent, to say the least.

Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Co- operation in Europe supported tonight the report by the OSCE fact- finding commission lead by Felipe Gonzalez and urged Belgrade to fully implement its recommendations, reports Reuters.

Spokesman of the State Department Nicholas Burns said today that the US hopes that the current OSCE session will discuss a prompt and decisive condemnation of the Serbian government if Milosevic decides not to respect the electoral results.

Zajedno leaders announced today that they will go on with the street protests, despite the fact that Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic's letter to the OSCE partially admits the opposition's victory in the local elections in some cities. One of Zajedno leaders, also head of the DS, Zoran Djindjic told Reuters that this letter represents "a clear rejection of the OSCE recommendations," reports FoNet.

Head of the DS Zoran Djindjic characterized today's letter by the Yugoslav Foreign Minister to the OSCE as "doubly insulting, once for its underestimation of the intellectual capacities of the members of the OSCE commission, and the second time to the Serbian people for having to put up with such a minister."

A coalition Zajedno press release today said that "the actions of the riot squads have cost the citizens of Serbia at least 50 million Deutsche marks." The statement stressed that at least 20,000-strong police forces have now been deployed in the streets of Belgrade for days, and that their daily wages, food, transport, lodging and equipment cost one million DM a day.

In a statement to Radio B92 today, Vuk Draskovic, one of Zajedno's leaders and head of the SPO, said that Serbian President Milosevic has used Yugoslavia's Foreign Minister as a proxy to send an offensive and humiliating reply to the OSCE recommendations on the recent local elections in Serbia. Vesna Pesic, head of GSS and also a leader of the coalition Zajedno, told Radio B92 that Milutinovic's letter stressed the victory of the left coalition, as if the opposition had ever disputed their victory in various small towns.


"These are unjust and undeserved walks! " [alluding to the cliche used by the state propaganda in describing the international sanctions formerly imposed on FR Yugoslavia]
"This people has completely lost its mind. High time it did!"
"Abolish the Danube. It is a foreign interference into our internal affairs."
"What this document says is irrelevant. What is relevant is the end we can put it to."
"Hats off to those who've managed to mislead us thus far!" [spoof of the state propaganda claims that the 5-week long demonstrations consist merely of "a handful of misguided people in the streets of Belgrade."

The 45th protest meeting held by the coalition Zajedno, which brought dozens of thousands of Belgraders out into the streets once again, was pervaded by reactions to Milan Milutinovic's letter to the OSCE. After the meeting was over, the demonstrators went for another protest march up and down Knez Mihajlova Street, as the riot squads once again blocked them from leaving Republic Square in other directions. Prior to this, Vuk Draskovic hinted that Zajedno has found a way to peacefully get around the police blockade, so that Belgraders can expect to go on marches outside the pedestrian zone they have been reduced to.

Radio B92 has learned that the Nis Electoral Committee finished the counting of votes today. However, the results do not match either those from the November 17 election, nor the forged minutes themselves. After a protest rock-concert held at the School of Electrical Engineering, the students walked down the streets of Nis armed with flashlights, fire-crackers and candles.

At the protest rally in Kragujevac, attended by more than 10,000 people, one of the speakers said that "people made it clear to Milosevic he has to leave."

Since the police have banned further protest walks in Pirot, the citizens today organized a so called "prison walk," marching in circles with their hands clasped behind their heads.

In his statement today, president of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), Vojislav Kostunica said that yesterday's announcement of the Serbian Orthodox Church on the political situation in Serbia is "in accordance with the responsibility and the role which the Church has in both religious and national life."

The stern condemnation of Slobodan Milosevic's policy issued yesterday by the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church received much publicity in Russian media today, reports FoNet. The Russian state TV broadcast the text of the Church statement practically in its entirety, and also showed the pictures of Serbian special police forces beating the protesters in Belgrade. In its commentary, Russian TV pointed out that Serbian authorities are responsible not only for the forgery of the election results and stifling of the political and religious freedoms, but also for the attempt to start a conflicts between the citizens themselves. Leading Russian radio stations also said that it was expected the Church would take the side of the electorate, although no one had expected that its condemnation of the regime would be so harsh.

Unofficially, the Clinton administration said today that the recognition of the opposition victory in Belgrade is encouraging, reports FoNet. Washington officials also said that the acknowledgment of the opposition's victory in Belgrade, Uzice, Kragujevac and Zrenjanin shows that the desired solution of the crisis is in sight, but also warned that the question of the opposition's victory in Nis and the another nine cities mentioned in the OSCE report is still up in the air. US officials greeted with approval the announcement of the Serbian Orthodox Church and expressed serious dissatisfaction with Milosevic's attempts to ignore the demands of the OSCE delegation.

About 15,000 citizens of the city of Kraljevo spent New Year's Eve in the center of their city, reports today's issue of the newspaper "Dnevni Telegraf." Around 2 PM, an unidentified man appeared, standing on the monument that dominates the main city square; shouting that he is a member of the Socialist Party of Serbia, and brandishing his membership card, the man claimed to have a bomb on him. The opposition's security people knocked him down to the ground and, on searching him, discovered a handheld bomb in his pocket. The man's identity is still unknown.

Here follows the complete news item by the news agency Tanjug on yesterday's protest rally in Belgrade: "Zajedno supporters gathered again yesterday in Republic Square in Belgrade. They were addressed by their leaders Zoran Djindjic, Vesna Pesic and Vuk Draskovic, who reiterated their series of demands, already familiar to all."

Tonight, during the broadcasting of the RTS prime time news show, noise resounded in many of Belgrade's neighborhoods even more raucously than yesterday. Many listeners joined Radio B92's the phone-in program, reporting on the levels of noise in their neighborhoods. A listener's comment went: "My neighborhood is rattling, but it can never beat Milutinovic!"

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