News for December 13th, 1996

Representatives of the Student Protest '96 spoke to the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who supported our protest, was said today at Plato in front of the School of Philosophy, from which tens of thousands of students start their protest walks for twenty days now.

The Committee of the Student Protest '96 sent a letter to the editorial staff of the New York Times in which they denied the statement of the newspaper that the Student Protest is nationalistic. "We are struggling for civil rights and for obeying the law but our protest is also against any nationalism which would cause a new bloodshed on the Balkans", reads the letter signed by Dusan Vasiljevic, the spokesman of the Student Protest '96. "The students in Serbia have been struggling for democracy for weeks now. We have no other choice any more", state the students in the letter.

A delegation of the Initiative Committee of the Student Protest '96 met with Milan Panic, former Yugoslav Prime Minister, in Belgrade today. Milan Panic approves of the protest in Serbia, said Dusan Vasiljevic, the spokesman of the Student Protest '96, for the BETA agency.

The second attempt of the meeting between the newly formed, and still unknown, Independent Student Movement and the organizers of the Student Protest '96 was unsuccessful, as well as the first one, because neither the representatives of the Student Alliance of Belgrade University (who are acting as go-betweens in these negotiations) nor the representatives of the students protesting in the streets of Belgrade appeared in the offices of the "Independents" today.

The Board of the Student Protest in Nis sent today the letter of support to their colleagues from the Student Protest in Belgrade and condemned "the shameful behaviour of the Student Alliance of Belgrade University". "Dear colleagues, we are embittered by the unscrupulousness of the authorities and of the shamefully non-objective media in manipulating with the appearance of the so called Independent Student Syndicate. We condemn such an attempt of denying the legitimacy of an authentic Committee, which has the full support of students", reads the letter from the students of Nis to the students of Belgrade University, who have been protesting for twenty days now against the disrespect of the electoral will of the citizens.

A group of around two hundred students from Novi Sad started the march towards Belgrade today. The march is a sign of support to the students of Belgrade University, who protest against the manipulations with the results of the municipal elections. The procession is expected to arrive in Belgrade around noon tomorrow.

A group of seventeen students of the University of Nis will start for Belgrade on foot on Sunday, 15th December, in order to call the attention of our and world public to the protest of students in Nis, provoked by the falsifying of the results of municipal elections.

The students of Schools in Subotica joined their colleagues from other Universities today, demanding the recognition of the will of the people expressed at the elections, democratization of the country and freedom of the media. The students walked by the building of the City Hall and towards the School of Economy in order to encourage the colleagues who did not dare to join them today.

More than 200 000 citizens of Belgrade peacefully protested against the machinations in the second round of the municipal elections. The protest was organized by the "Zajedno" coalition. The leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition told the citizens that the victory of democracy in Serbia is nearing, and that the demonstrations would not end until the stolen votes have been returned. In his speech, Head of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Vuk Draskovic, among other things, said: "Our peaceful rebellion against the dictatorship comes into final stage."

In his letter to Warren Christopher, American Secretary of State, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic stated that the municipal elections in Serbia had been regular and that they "proved that democracy has a long tradition in Serbia". Milosevic denied the reprimands of the USA, delivered by Warren Christopher, and added that the assertion that the Serbian authorities had annulled the electoral results was-"fabricated".

Milosevic's this morning's answer to Warren Christopher's letter, was accepted in Washington as another confirmation that the President of Serbia is neither really aware of the situation which he brought his country in, nor he really understands the messages coming from the streets of Belgrade and other cities.

State Department Spokesman, Nicholas Burns, on tonight's press conference, commented Milosevic's answer to Christopher. He said: "President Milosevic, in his letter, fails to address in any serious and committed way the substantive concerns that the United States has raised over the last several weeks concerning the annulment of the municipal elections and the subsequent abuse by the Serbian police of many of the demonstrators. The United States rejects President Milosevic's legalistic arguments in this letter that try to whitewash the simple truth: There has been a blatant disregard of the democratic will of the Serbian people, and the Serbian government has annulled elections which now should be restored, which the opposition clearly won in 15 of 18 constituencies."

European diplomats, who were dismayed by the non-democratic acts of Serbian authorities in recent days, now seem to have the same attitude towards the yesterday's visit of Italian Foreign Minister, Lamberto Dini, to Serbia. Most diplomats dismiss Dini's statements as "solo act" which has nothing to do with the opinion of any of the European institutions. Some of the diplomats even fear that "Italy is trying to achieve something behind the scene."

Yugoslav Foreign Minister, Milan Milutinovic, today sent a letter to the chairman of OSCE, Flavio Coti, and invited the delegation of this organization to visit Yugoslavia. The reason for the invitation is the current problem about the results of the municipal elections.

The Steering Board of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) supported the initiative that the delegation from the OSCE should be invited to Serbia in order to "be truly and accurately informed about the facts concerning November elections," report most of the Belgrade media.

Ronald Harwood, the Chairman of the International PEN, the organization of the writers from 94 countries, wrote a letter to President Milosevic in which he condemns the non-democratic acts of Serbian authorities and the abuse of the human rights in Serbia.

Foreign journalists told the Organizational Board of Coalition Zajedno that Serbian authorities do not want to prolong their visas for Yugoslavia, and that many reporters cannot even get entry-visa.

Today, the demonstrations were held in Belgrade, Nis, Kraljevo, Kragujevac, Pirot, Knjazevac, Bor, Jagodina, Leskovac, Uzice, Smederevska Palanka, Pancevo, Lapovo, Paracin, Cupria, Zajecar, Lazarevac, Loznica, Krusevac and Negotin.

British media report today on the letter from Slobodan Milosevic to Warren Christopher, American Secretary of State, and on the proposal on the part of Serbian President that a delegation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) examine the results of the municipal elections in Serbia. In connection with this, the BBC reported from Belgrade that this was the first public sign of President's reacting since the beginning of the protest in Belgrade.

The engaging of the police forces in preventing the demonstrators from going to Dedinje and the arrival of Lamberto Dini, Italian Foreign Minister, to Belgrade have caused interest in British newspapers. The Independent reports the statement of the head of Italian diplomacy that both President Milosevic and the representatives of the opposition have left some space for dialogue, and that this is the first visit of a politician from western countries, on the highest level, from the beginning of the protest in Belgrade.

The problem which the demonstrators in Belgrade now face is that if they do not get the support of workers and foreign governments, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic can wait forever until the protest abate, writes the today's Times. Along with the report that a few tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered yesterday in the center of Belgrade, protesting against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, the Times relates the opinions of Belgrade students:"We shall not give up, but neither will he; Milosevic is waiting for us to go our hometowns for Christmas."

Son of the last Yugoslav king, prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic said today that western countries "should support those who believe in democracy" in Serbia and "improve the communications, because the State media are a real propaganda machine which misinforms the people". He said that there are no nationalistic impulses at the demonstrations in Belgrade, at which "very educated people" gather. "There are also the students, who are really fantastic. In 1992, I visited all Schools in Belgrade; they are really pro-democratically oriented", said prince Aleksandar.

Around 2,000 citizens of Lazarevac gathered this evening at the 9th rally of the "Zajedno" coalition in the center of the town protesting against the annulment of the results of municipal elections. The protest will be continued at 17:00 tomorrow.

Although Yugoslavia invited the representatives of OSCE to Belgrade in order to to discuss the municipal elections, the officials of OSCE state that the character of the invitation does not give an opportunity to the delegation to verify the electoral results, says Reuters.

The Municipal Court in Nis passed the Resolution by which it rejected the suggestion of the Town Electoral Committee that the objections made by the "Zajedno" coalition to the decision of that Committee concerning the second round of the municipal elections should be dismissed. The Court directed the Town Electoral Committee to submit the disputed electoral materials to the Court "within an hour".

The Serbian Radical Party stated today that the solution to the political crisis in Serbia must be found in Serbian Parliament and that the session of Parliament must be broadcasted live on television.

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