News for January 12th, 1997

At their meeting with Serbian vice-presidents yesterday, UofB students did not get any promise that the police cordons will be withdrawn from the streets; as a result, the students began their 51st straight protest yesterday at 6 p.m. by forming their own lines to match the police cordons in downtown Belgrade. Students tried to go for a protest walk, but after just a hundred yards, they were stopped by a police cordon. Despite the heavy rain, members of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences once again expressed their support for the protest by standing between the student crowd and the police cordon. Around 8 p.m., the students suddenly began to dash down the side streets in order to find a passage out of the police enclosed area to which they had been confined. The police then took off after them, trying to form lines in all the side streets, most of the time unsuccessfully. The very fact that the students had succeeded in organizing a protest walk from the very center of the city attracted many Belgrade residents, so a great number of them joined the student crowd. The procession managed to walk down many streets where the protest marches had not been permitted during the previous two weeks. The protest walk through the city, accompanied with the deafening noise of sirens, whistles and firecrackers, lasted for approximately two hours.

The representatives of the Initial Board of the Student Protest 96/97 announced today that neither the gathering of the students at the Plato tonight, nor the protest walk will take place tonight, because the last night's walk, when the police cordon was removed from the streets, entered the following day of the protest.

Surrounded by large contingents of special police units, several dozens of thousands of coalition Zajedno supporters attended the protest rally held in Belgrade today. This was the 54th straight protest rally held in the capital of Serbia to date. Unable to walk in any of the city's other boulevards because of the heavy police lines blocking downtown Belgrade, after the rally, the protesters took a walk up and down the Knez Mihajlova Street, right in the heart of central Belgrade. Leaders of the coalition Zajedno announced that tomorrow there will be no protest rally, but they called on the citizens to come to the Republic Square tomorrow evening at 8 p.m. to celebrate the Orthodox New Year. "The program, spectacular by the number of participants, as well as by the technical conditions, such Belgrade has never seen, is being organized by the Student Protest 96/97", it is stated in the summon of the coalition, specifying that the program begins at 10 pm.

The citizens of Belgrade continued their action of outlouding the prime-time news program of the state controlled television, viewed in the whole state tonight. By smashing pots, pans, trash containers, as well as by throwing firecrackers, blowing whistles and trumpets and other instruments, the citizens responded to the call of the oppositional coalition "Zajedno" to be louder than the RTS news. Many drivers have been joining the citizens making noise from their windows and balconies by blowing their horns in various parts of the city. A large number of citizens of Belgrade has been "fighting" against the RTS by placing speakers near their windows and playing loud music on their radios.

The Steering Board of the Student Protest in the city of Kragujevac informed Radio B92 that more than 4,000 students and citizens attended today's protest in that city. Gathered in the center of the city, the protesters attended a ceremony at which they mounted a plate bearing the inscription: "Kragujevac: A Free Walking Zone -- signed, the Students."

Greek foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos today arrived in Belgrade, invited by the Yugoslav foreign minister Milan Milutinovic. On his arrival in Belgrade, Pangalos said that he will encourage the search for a way to normal democratic life in Serbia, reports Reuters. Immediately after his arrival, Pangalos met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and then also with the leaders of the coalition Zajedno. Acting as an unofficial mediator in the political crisis in Serbia, Greek foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos today stated that there is a way out of the impasse based on the OSCE report which recognized the opposition's victory in the local elections in a large number of Serbian cities and constituencies.

Speaking after today's meeting of Greek foreign minister Pangalos with Zajedno's leaders, head of the Democratic Party Zoran Djindjic stated that the coalition Zajedno has no room for maneuvering. "We have no space for that because if we make concessions, it would mean that we acquiesce in the violations of the law."

President of Montenegro Momir Bulatovic has rejected a proposal put forward by president of the People's Party of Montenegro, Novak Kilibarda. Kilibarda suggested that the ruling Democratic Party of the Socialists of Montenegro (DPS) should terminate its alliance with the Socialist Party of Serbia and, together with the Serbian opposition, elect a new Federal government, using the legal means available to the Federal Parliament, reports Montena- fax.

Yesterday, late in the afternoon, Municipal Court in the city of Vrsac reached two decisions: one positive for the coalition Zajedno, the other negative, said Branislav Ivkovic, local leader of the Civil Alliance of Serbia, in his statement for Radio B92. Although the coalition Zajedno, even under these court rulings, will retain a majority in the City Council, they will file complaints until the results from November 17 are reinstated in full.

Radio B92 has received an e-mail from the newspaper Nezavisne Novine, published in Toronto, in which they say that the paper will arrange a protest rally as an act of support to the protests of the citizens and students in Serbia. The rally will be held at Nathan Philips Square in Toronto, on January 25, at 2 p.m. The paper has also published a list of demands that will be read aloud at this rally:
1. Complete reinstatement of the election results from November 17;
2. Freedom of the media in Serbia;
3. The right to vote for the citizens of Serbia living abroad.

Radio B92 today received an e-mail from John-Ragnar Aarset, member of the Young Conservatives of Norway, saying that his organization today arranged the demonstrations in front of the Yugoslav Embassy in Oslo. Protesters in Norway expressed support for the protesters in Serbia, emulating protest actions such as "Noise Is All the Rage" and phoning the Yugoslav Embassy in Oslo in such numbers and with such frequency that its lines were virtually unavailable for regular embassy work.

From now on, student protesters in Belgrade can count among their supporters the British techno-rock band The Prodigy. Today, Radio B92 received a telegram, via HMK Music, coming from The Prodigy, which says: "The Prodigy send their true message of support to the students in Belgrade who, by demonstrations and protests, fight for the freedom of speech and democracy. We are honored and astonished by the fact that our music served as an inspiration for your struggle and we hope that Serbia, due to your efforts, will be freed from oppression as soon as possible. We are looking forward to playing in Belgrade again soon and meeting some of you personally," says the telegram signed by the members of The Prodigy.

Once again, on his current visit to the region, US assistant secretary of state John Kornblum has pointedly left Belgrade from the itinerary which has taken him to both Zagreb and Sarajevo. Kornblum's decision to detour Belgrade confirms the US announcement of a boycott of all official contacts with Serbian President, reports FoNet. Washington also confirmed the existence of a plan for a complete break-up of relations with Yugoslavia if Milosevic does not fulfill all US demands by the end of next week.

The first expression of Russian support for the opposition and the protesters in Serbia came from a visitor to Belgrade, reports FoNet. Leader of the party Russia Nas Dom, Sergei Belayev, who is on an unofficial visit to Belgrade, stated today that democratic forces in Russia support the demands for democratic changes in Serbia. Regarding the contradiction between the attitude of his pro-government party and the Russian Foreign Ministry, Belayev said that Russia Our Home has the right to its own position.

Western diplomats stationed in Belgrade observe that, despite some hints and speculations, neither Serbian President Milosevic, nor any of his collaborators, has so far publicly announced that they accept the OSCE report on the opposition's victory in the local elections in 14 cities, including Belgrade. Western analysts think that the ruling SPS and its closest ally JUL are now anxious to save face and are trying to pass the buck to the government. The ones who are at least trying to save their own personal dignity are making an effort to be in contact with the students but not with the coalition Zajedno. Meanwhile, Milosevic is running out of time as the West begins to distance itself from the authorities and to broaden its contacts with the opposition, say foreign analysts stationed in Belgrade.

Czech President Vaczlav Havel stated today that he is carefully observing the events in Serbia and that he sees many parallels with the Czech experience. "It is obvious where I stand, where my heart is. On the side of freedom and democracy. I would like Serbia to be a normal, integral part of the family of European peoples who share common values, including the principles of civil state and society, so I support everything in Serbia that tends that way," said Havel.

Vesna Pesic, President of the Civil Alliance of Serbia (GS) is to travel to Paris tomorrow, on the summon of the Socialist Party of France, GS announced today. During the two-day visit it is planned for Vesna Pesic to meet with the diplomatic representative of Jacques Chirac, French President, and "it is possible that an official meeting with Ervet de Sarette, French Minister of Foreign Affairs will be conducted", GS stated.

The Undersecretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Piero Fassino is scheduled to come to Belgrade tomorrow, where he is to meet the representatives of the authorities, the opposition, and the Student Protest, this Ministry announced. The leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition, Vuk Draskovic, Zoran Djindjic and Vesna Pesic were invited to meet the representatives of the Italian government in Rome, on January 17th, it is added in the announcement of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made public yesterday.

Slobodan Milosevic, President of Serbia, will recognize the local elections' coalition, today's "Dnevni Telegraf" claims. Milosevic will, according to the sources of this newspaper that are close to the Serbian government, offer one third of the Ministers' positions in the Government of Serbia, at the most, and there is no chance for the opposition to acquire the Prime Minister's seat.

The Vice President of the Democratic Party Miodrag Perisic stated to the journal "Libre Belgique" that the coalition "Zajedno" will nominate one, united candidate at the presidential elections in Serbia. The essential goals of the "Zajedno" presidential candidate will be "the alternation of the Constitution, for the purpose of replacing the present presidential with a parliamentary system", as well as "the changes in the economy, governing the state, internal policy and diplomacy".

The Belgian journal "Libre Belgique" requests, in its extensive report on the events in Serbia for the Nobel Prize for peace to be awarded to students this year. The students have "in their daily struggle, acting as providence, given the opposition the spinal column it lacked", and "in the night between Thursday and Friday they took one of the brightest victories in the endless history of battles for democracy", the newspaper estimates.

The representative of the "Zajedno" coalition in the Federal Parliament, Branislav Jovanovic said today that the protests in Nis will not cease until the results of the local elections, based on the recommendations of the OSCE, are acknowledged. He also said that it is not yet known whether the coalition will constitute the City Assembly with its 37 representatives, as the Serbian government recommended, or with 41, which is the number found in the authentic reports from the polling places. The final decision will be made by the emergency board of the coalition in Nis, he added.

Branimir Stojkovic, the organizer of the tribune of the Institute for European Studies "Peace with peaceful means", accused the Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) for "misuse in the shameful campaign of deceit against its own people". In the statement handed to the Beta agency, Stojkovic claims that the RTS misinterpreted the words of the Norwegian professor, founder of the Institute for Peace in Oslo, Johann Galthung, in its report from the yesterday's tribune, and estimated that "a deliberate lie, intended to manipulate the public" is at issue here. Galthung has, Stojkovic says, explicitly supported the goals and the manners of protest by the students and citizens of Serbia, assigning them among the worthiest peaceful protests since World War II - shoulder to shoulder with that of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

More than 10000 citizens of Nis gathered today on the 56th protest gathering on the account of the annulment of the second round of the local elections, in this, and other cities in Serbia. Also, approximately 40 citizens of Leskovac, who walked for 45 kilometers in order to reach Nis, arrived to the central town square. The police has banned the citizens' walks in Leskovac. While they were approaching the square, a few thousand students of Nis ran in their direction to greet them, while the citizens present were all applauding.

A few members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP) of Serbia, dressed in uniforms, beat up two boys today after the protest rally in Sabac. Eyewitnesses claim that the boys gave no pretext for the police intervention. The policemen harshly arrested Aleksandar S. (17) and Milan P. (15) and used both hands and legs to beat them behind the MUP building. Both attained injuries on their heads and bodies. The Deputy Chief of the MUP of Sabac, Momcilo Petrovic said that he is not authorized to comment on the incident.

In downtown Jagodina around 3000 supporters of the opposition, demanding the recognition of the results of the local elections held on November 17th, gathered again tonight. The opposition in Jagodina has announced a great New Year's celebration for tomorrow night, mentioning that actors and singers from Belgrade have also been invited.

The citizens of Novi Sad have been, during the tonight's broadcast of the state controlled television's news, making noise in all the parts of the city, in this way joining the action "Noise against television's lies".

Out of 17 electoral units in all, which were controversial, according to the opinion of the Ministry of Justice, the City Electoral Committee (GIK) in Nis has, tonight at 20:00, announced the victory of the candidates of the candidates of the "Zajedno" coalition, as was announced to the Beta agency tonight, by Branislav Jovanovic, representative of the coalition in the Federal Parliament. "The GIK has not yet reached a decision in nine electoral units, therefore leaving it to the court to pass judgement on our objections", Jovanovic said, and specified that, according to this decision of the GIK, the "Zajedno" coalition in Nis has 32 representatives at this moment, the Socialist Party of Serbia has 28, while the Municipal Court will decide about nine more seats. He estimated the new decision of the GIK, given to the "Zajedno" coalition tonight at around 20:00 as "completely illegitimate, because all deadlines have exceeded."

The Chinese news agency Hsinhua, in its report from Belgrade, about the promise of the Serbian government to the students that the people's electoral will is going to be respected, writes that this can be considered yet another concession of the government, caused by pressures from both the country and the world, the correspondent for FoNet Aleksandar Novacic reports.

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