News for January 8th, 1997

On the 48th day of protests, the police cordons which were assigned on the beginning and in the end of Knez Mihajlova street, the only pedestrian zone in Belgrade, prevented a few thousand of the Belgrade students from going for their peaceful protest walk again today. But the students of the UofB scored 2:O against the riot squads trying to contain them in Knez Mihajlova Street and the Student Square. Several hundred students fooled the police by rushing down some of the side streets. It took the police a quarter of an hour to bring the students back to the place "designated" for their protest. The police was quite friendly with the students, some of them smiling.

Spokesman for the Student Protest 96/97 Dusan Vasiljevic told a press conference today that students will begin their vigil in front of the riot squad cordons in Belgrade until they leave the streets - an action named "blockade against blockade". Nine divisions of at least 100 students each will take shifts standing in front of the cordons and stay on the streets until the withdrawal of the policemen. Vasiljevic also announced a meeting of the Student Protest of Serbia on January 11, which will gather representatives of all cities in which student protests are being held.

Heavy police forces featured as the protagonists of the 50th straight day of protests in Belgrade. Dozens of riot squads blocked downtown Belgrade at 3 p.m. as Zajedno supporters headed for the city center with the intention of blocking it themselves. Draskovic nevertheless called on the demonstrators to continue their march. The column headed by him and Vesna Pesic, leader of the GSS, was stopped by the riot squads after marching not more than several hundred meters in one of Belgrade's main avenues. At that point, Draskovic addressed both the demonstrators and the policemen who had blocked their way. He appealed to the police and explained that Zajedno and its supporters were not protesting against the police but against the "thieves among the top state officials."

In almost all parts of Belgrade, the citizens were making noise once again tonight, during the prime time news program of the Radio-Television of Serbia, expressing their discontent with the manner in which this station has been informing the public. As in the previous evenings, Belgraders were "reporting" the noise in various parts of town, which seem to be competing in loudness, by the means of the two independent radio stations. Vracar, New Belgrade and Dorcol were the loudest in tonight's "noise contest".

The US has saluted the statement issued by the Yugoslav Army Headquarters after this Monday's meeting of the army Chief of Staff with the student delegation. The Yugoslav army chief-of- staff said the army will not interfere in the electoral dispute between the opposition and Serbian President Milosevic, FoNet reports Reuters as saying.

Having reviewed the electoral minutes from Nis, the Serbian Ministry of Justice has concluded that the coalition Zajedno won 37, the Socialist Party of Serbia 32 and the Radical Party 1 seat in the City Assembly of Nis. This was announced in a statement issued by the Serbian Ministry of Justice after a cabinet session of the Serbian government. The statement also said that the government expects the Nis Electoral Commission to respect this indisputable fact, reverse its decision to call for a fresh round in some polling stations in Nis, and publish a final confirmation of electoral results.

Zoran Zivkovic, one of the Zajedno leaders in Nis, told Radio B92 that the statement concerning the elections in Nis issued today by the Ministry of Justice is invalid and without any basis in law. He further specified: "The government would have to issue a statement citing the true information, the names of those responsible for the irregularities, the names of those against whom legal action will be brought, and the basis on which they [the Government] had established the number of votes cast for this or that party."

Milan Bozic, a Serbian Renewal Movement MP, told Radio B92 that there is no doubt the authorities have begun to cave in after 50 days of mass protests and the heavy international pressure brought to bear on the regime. Referring to the Ministry of Justice statement on the elections in Nis, he said that such bargaining is of no interest to Zajedno and that the government does not have the authority to decide on such issues. Zajedno's main goal is to compel the authorities to acknowledge their electoral theft. Only then could Zajedno enter into negotiations with them, said Bozic.

Today's protest rally by several thousand demonstrators in Nis, assembled on the streets despite the city's extremely poor weather conditions today, was also attended by Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party. Addressing the protesters, Djindjic said that after 52 days of marathon democratic protests, victory is finally on the horizon. He stressed that an overall democratization of the political system and the liberation of the state-dominated media are the two fundamental conditions for the protests to stop.

Radio B92 has learned from reliable sources that Rector of the UofB Dragutin Velickovic today instructed the deans of all university schools to resume teaching immediately so as to make up for the time lost during the protests. In his fax today, Velickovic specifically demanded that records be taken of students' future absences from lectures.

The delegation of 20 students of the University of Nis (two representatives from each faculty) will head tomorrow morning for Belgrade by train to assist their colleagues in their action of peaceful penetration of the cordons, named "Blockade against blockade", the Press-center of the Student Protest in Nis stated. The announcement says that the students in Nis continued with the boycott of the lectures and with protests at their home schools, despite the order from the Ministry of Education of Serbia to go back to classes. It is added that assemblies and tribunes were held on all faculties, in which professors took part as well, after which a few thousand students left for the Chancellor's Office, where they were informed that the Medical School ceased lectures this morning. After the conclusion of this meeting the students went for a walk to the City Assembly, to which they gave a 40 day commemoration, and lit the candles "for the eternal peace of the old Parliament".

The School Council of the Law School in Belgrade rejected the proposal of the Chancellor of the Belgrade University to immediately start making up for the classes, which haven't been held since the Student Protest began. As the Beta agency discovers, 55 members of the council were against the Chancellor's proposal, while four opted 'for'. The Council has 97 members, but the others left the session before the voting began. Organizing lectures would be only an illusion, the School Council of the Law School estimated and demanded that the authorities at once acknowledge the results of the local elections' second rounds. Making up for classes as well as the exams will be organized in a way that no student will be deprived. The School Council of the Law School in Belgrade requested from the Chancellor to immediately summon for the Student Council of the University, which hasn't been held for a long period of time.

The 39th day of the opposition's protest in Sabac was marked by minor clashes with the police and by the breaking the record in whistling at the President's name - 32 minutes. The police thwarted the protest walk again today, by posting a cordon around Liberty square in the center of town. This time the citizens of Sabac outwitted the members of the police, who weren't paying attention to the "secret" passage near the square, better known as "the crescent". The policemen didn't know how to react, because for a moment they found themselves besieged by the demonstrators.

Several thousands of citizens of Kragujevac continued with their protest against the local elections results' annulment, as well as the annexation of the local television to the state controlled television - RTS. The spokesman for the "Zajedno" coalition in Kragujevac, Aleksandar Radosavljevic announced at the gathering in the city center that "somebody cut the cables" during the night, which was why the loudspeaker system was out of operation. He said that the coalition will announce the phone numbers of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) Committee in Kragujevac, and appealed to the citizens to block the phone lines of SPS, where "the incentive for the cable cut-off originated".

By the end of this month, there will likely be a reshuffle in the Serbian government, the independent daily Blic learned from well- informed sources in the ruling SPS. The impending changes, the source said, come at the insistence of JUL. The number of JUL representatives in the new government will correspond to JUL's representation in the Federal Parliament. The same source told Blic that it is uncertain whether the new government would have any New Democracy members, whose party has criticized the regime's conduct in and following the recent local elections in Serbia.

The latest issue of the weekly Nedeljni Telegraf claims that Serbian President Milosevic is about to make his final decision about the policy he will adopt to get the country out of its present political paralysis. The most probable option, the weekly reports, is for the Serbian President to dismiss Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic's cabinet and instruct a new prime minister to co-operate with the opposition. Nedeljni Telegraf predicts that Milosevic is likely to use this to shift at least part of the blame for the electoral blunders to the outgoing republican government, as it is almost certain that he must accept the OCSE recommendations if he wants to pursue the pro-reform and pro-European option.

At a recent session of the SPS Executive Board, Belgrade Mayor Nebojsa Covic openly stated that he supports the student demands, the daily Nasa Borba learned today from sources close to the ruling party. Some of the members of the board demanded that Covic deny press rumors of his intent to resign as mayor. Refusing to do this, even if it damaged the party's reputation, Covic said: "I've kept silent for 50 days, believing that those [members of the SPS] who have mismanaged these elections will come to their senses and try to revoke the decisions that have provoked the situation we are now facing in all major cities in Serbia." He reaffirmed that he will continue to support the demands of the students "who are the only honest party in the foul game around the elections."

Leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) told a press conference today that it would be dangerous if the opposition accepted any halfway measures or any partial concessions offered by the regime. He explained that most of the demonstrators were not on the streets because of the electoral theft itself but because of the lack of democracy in Serbia. He observed that the OSCE report "gave Milosevic a second chance" since it let his ballot theft in the federal and local elections pass. He pointed out that the OSCE evaluation and its judgment on the federal elections were made without a review of the electoral materials.

At a press conference today, leader of the Democratic Center Party, Dragoljub Micunovic blamed the authorities for generating the present political crisis in Serbia. He said the authorities must implement the OSCE recommendations and call a panel that will include members from all parliamentary parties. He noted that even in the Socialist ranks there have been demands urging such actions.

Writing in today's issue of the International Herald Tribune, Paul Williams and Norman Cigar call on the Hague Tribunal to indict Slobodan Milosevic immediately in the interests of democracy in Serbia and of peace in the Balkans, reports for FoNet Mirko Klarin. The indictment could be brought on 3 grounds: Milosevic could be indicted as directly responsible for the genocide perpetrated by the military and paramilitary forces under his official or effective control; he could be prosecuted as an accomplice in the war crimes; and finally on the grounds that he did not prevent or prosecute against the crimes he knew of or had a duty to know.

Although the Clinton Administration is fully aware that President Milosevic is using delay tactics and playing for time, Washington will probably wait for the OSCE's official position on Belgrade's response to its recommendations, expected on January 16, before it makes any further moves to condemn the Serbian regime. The US Administration, however, expects that the protests going on all over Serbia will end up in Milosevic's caving in to the demands by the opposition and the students.

Spokesman for JUL Ivan Markovic told a press conference today that the recent explosion at the JUL headquarters in Belgrade is "one in a series of acts of organized violence, aimed at spreading fear and insecurity among the citizens and destabilizing the country." Emphasizing that this was the 5th bomb attack against member parties of the left coalition, he accused Zajedno of terrorism supported and funded by foreign powers.

The Yugoslav Left (JUL) sent an appeal today to all the embassies in Belgrade to "raise their voice against the public summon to terrorism, violence, intolerance and disruption issued by the leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition, under the supposed name of democracy".

The "Vojvodina" coalition expressed its "deepest bitterness regarding the bomb assault on the Yugoslav Left headquarters", on Monday night in Belgrade, and demanded an urgent institution of an enquiry. "The one who committed this is invoking the imposition of the state of emergency in the country", Nenad Canak, President of the League of Social-democrats of Vojvodina (LSV) on a press conference in Novi Sad. Canak expressed his worries that the regime could, if the identity of the assailant is not established, use this as an excuse for the imposition of emergency measures.

President of the Republic of Srpska Biljana Plavsic recently stated that the demonstrators in Serbia are protesting against "a totalitarian regime which has ruined Serbs," reports news agency SRNA. The fact that people all over Serbia have been demonstrating for almost two months now, Plavsic said, goes to show that the protests are not a matter of party or ideological differences.

"The Independent" asks today whether the main reason for President Milosevic's breakdown will be "his lack of sense of humor and the refusal to grasp the message from the demonstrators that his time is up". Accompanying the report on the demonstrators' "offensive of charm", the newspaper asks whether Milosevic will understand the message that he is finished and retire quietly or disappear in a storm of violence, the BBC radio reports in its Serbian language program.

The Brussels journal "Libre Belgique" estimates today that the coming out of a few hundred thousand people for the celebration of Christmas, and the simultaneous demonstrations in Belgrade is "undoubtedly a new success" for the opposition, "for, it is the proof that it is capable of moving its supporters whenever and wherever it pleases, on which the regime can only be envious". The journal concludes that "the Serbian demonstrators have become completely aware that they set into motion something that won't be stopped until their original, humble demands are met, and that is the confirmation of the opposition's victory on the local elections."

The students in Belgrade will throw a big party on Friday, January 10th on the occasion of a jubilee - the 50th day of the protest against the annulment of the local elections' second round results and the disregard of the electoral will of the citizens. The security of the Student Protest 96/97 announced to a few thousand students who gathered again today on the plateau in front of the School of Philosophy that the party will be organized in the Actors' club "Syrano", in the Balkanska street.

Approximately four thousand citizens of Bor assembled tonight, on the 30th day of the protest against the annulment of the local elections' results. An incident was avoided at the beginning of the meeting. A procession of demonstrators started the walk, and, wanting to enlarge the circle in which it was forced to move, approached a police cordon surrounding the city center. The policemen pulled out their clubs and demonstrated readiness to charge, but everything ended peacefully, as the procession withdrew.

Approximately 7000 citizens assembled today at the city square in Kraljevo, on the 51st day of the protest against the annulment of the local elections results. In addition to the guests from the neighboring towns and villages, Dara Dzokic, Belgrade actress also spoke at the rally, and during the protest the latest news on the present situation were read. Following the meeting, the citizens of Kraljevo organized yet another evening walk through the streets of town.

The 51st protest meeting in Jagodina tonight was attended by some 2000 people. Powerful police forces surrounded Youth square located in the center of town, where the citizens gathered. The appeal of the "Zajedno" coalition to the police forces, asking them not to hinder the protest gatherings, "which by no means disturb public peace and order", was read. The police forces limited, for the first time, the protest walk of the citizens of Jagodina, following the protest gathering, to an extremely narrow pedestrian zone in the center.

Tonight's, 35th protest of the citizens of Leskovac against the annulment of the local elections in Serbia, which lasted three hours, was for its whole duration, on the verge of an incident. The sparks between the citizens (approximately 800) gathered in Podvorac, the suburb of Leskovac and 50 policemen, occurred at 18:50, when a cordon blocked the procession, formed with the intention of heading for the town center. The demonstrators tried to alternate the route on several occasions, but the police seemed to be quicker each time and always formed new cordons in front of them.

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