News for January 5th, 1997

Called on by the leaders of the coalition Zajedno, thousands of drivers blocked the traffic in central Belgrade, causing unprecedented traffic jams and a complete gridlock with their cars today. This blockade enabled protesters to take to the streets once again, walking among the cars. The cars were full of people with whistles, trumpets and various hand-made instruments which they used to greet the passers-by. Many cars abruptly and unaccountably "broke down," and the drivers lifted their bonnets, took off their wheels or parked their cars in the middle of the road. On this, the 47th day of protests, leaders of Zajedno accused Milosevic of failing to ensure normal traffic conditions for countless thousands of Belgraders today, and that despite the 20,000 members of the special police units he has brought to the capital expressly for this purpose.

The University of Nis students, whose delegation met with Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade a few weeks ago, sent a letter to the President of Serbia in which they say:
"You told us that you will do everything in your power to defend the Constitution and that you will instruct all relevant state organs to ferret out the truth concerning the elections in Nis. Much time has passed since we talked to you, but nothing has changed." Today, at 2 PM, in front of the main building of the University of Nis, its alumni and students held another in a series of protest rallies that have been going on in this city for the last six weeks.

In his official message to him, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel urged President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic to immediately and fully acknowledge the opposition victory in the local elections held last November 17, reports AFP. Otherwise, Serbia's re-entry into the international community will be totally barred, stressed Kinkel.

The coalition Zajedno today sent an official message to the members of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs and called on them not to allow the ruling SPS to abuse them and push the police into a conflict with the citizens.

The health condition of Ivica Lazovic, protester who was seriously wounded in a conflict with a pro-Milosevic crowd on December 24, has improved a little according to the doctors at Belgrade's Trauma Center. The doctors there have also said that, at this moment, Lazovic has pneumonia, cannot move his left extremities and that it is uncertain how long his partial paralysis will last.

Today's issue of Belgrade's daily Dnevni Telegraf reports that there has been no official announcement yet about Nebojsa Covic's decision to step down from the position of the Mayor of Belgrade. The paper says that Covic has temporarily shelved his resignation after his "talks yesterday with the President of Serbia." Covic allegedly told Milosevic that he will remain mayor only if the results of November 17 elections are officially recognized and those members of SPS who compromised the integrity of state institutions are replaced. Nebojsa Covic has also insisted, repeatedly, that his party distance itself from the coalition JUL, headed by Mira Markovic, Slobodan Milosevic's wife. Dnevni Telegraf has no information on the Serbian President's response, but it claims that Covic's final decision on whether to stay on as mayor of Belgrade will be made public by Tuesday, at the latest.

Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, stated for today's issue of the independent daily Dnevni Telegraf that the ministers of the 54 member countries of the OSCE will examine Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic's letter to the OSCE at their next meeting on January 7. Fleming also said that the OSCE will then also decide whether to send Milutinovic the data on the disputed local elections in Serbia which he has asked for in his letter.

In its main news bulletin today, state-run Radio Belgrade said that the Serbian Orthodox Church has joined the coalition Zajedno "in an attack on Serbia." "Yes, you heard well. Warren Christopher is a small child compared with the Church," went one of the comments made by Radio Belgrade.

Today's issue of the Russian daily Izvestia says that Russia has lost the battle of trying to make Belgrade its strategic ally in the Balkans, reports FoNet.

Today's issue of many French newspapers label Milutinovic's letter to the OSCE a "transparent bluff." Liberation, France's most popular and highly respected left-wing daily, says that the regime's insistence on legal formalities is only meant to buy Milosevic some time and to "exhaust the opposition through marathon court procedures." Today's Monde comments that "Milosevic has stuck to his old tactics, the ones he used repeatedly during the war in ex-Yugoslavia."

Bibi Anderson, Swedish actress known for her leading roles in many Bergman's movies, arrived in Belgrade yesterday. Anderson addressed the student crowd at the beginning of yesterday evening's protest and also gave an interview to the daily Demokratija. She said that the Swedish media are reporting daily on the protests in Belgrade and that she believes one must distinguish sharply between the state and the people of Serbia. Anderson also spoke of her delight at the humor and the ingenuity the protesters have been demonstrating for so long.

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