News for December 15th, 1996

Tens of thousands of students set out on a protest march through Belgrade streets around 7 PM. Under the slogan "Bringing Light to Belgrade", the students carried fire-works, candles and torches. Protest '96 announced that further night marches will be held on weekends only.

A group of students from the University of Nis started for Belgrade on foot (250km) today at noon. The goal of the march is to "attract the attention of the domestic and foreign media to the protests against the falsified electoral results in this city", stated the student board. "The group consists of 17 students because thais the number of electoral units in which falsified records appeared" stated Nikola Bozinovic, spokesman for the student board. The students are carrying the records from those 17 electoral units and they will show them to their Belgrade colleagues, and to the President of Serbia of whom they asked a reception. The students of Nis named the walk "The Conquest of the Peak of Serbia", and two vans will accompany them with "two spare student-walkers".

Over 10,000 citizens and students of Nis came out to see off the group of students from the University of Nis who left on a march to Belgrade today. The assembled people also heard the text of a letter by students from Nis to President Milosevic, asking him to see the delegation of 17 marchers on Tuesday.

Over 100,000 demonstrators turned out on Belgrade streets for the 26th day of protest against the nullification of local electoral results. At the end of today's protest meeting, the demonstrators were shown video footage of the protests; the material came from various TV stations around the world. A special video screen was set up for this occasion.

US Assistant Secretary of State, John Kornblum held talks in Geneva today with Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Srebian Renewal Movement (SPO). The two exchanged views on the current situation in Serbia. Kornblum described the talks as an important opportunity to get new information on what was going on in Serbia, reported AFP. He said Washington supports the efforts by the opposition to democratize Serbia.

The US has already expressed its disagreement with the statements made by Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini during his visit to Belgrade. The US government said today Dini is coming to Washington tomorrow and will be only minister to have one-on-one talks with Warren Christopher. The State Department confirmed Dini will be asked to explain the statements he made in Belgrade and to clarify Italy's position with regard to the post-electoral crisis in Serbia. The position of the Clinton administration remains the same, based on the four demands by Washington to Belgrade: To respect the democratically expressed will of the Serbian people by restoring the electoral results of November 17th local elections. To start a substantive dialogue with the representatives of the opposition in Serbia. To refrain, on any account, from the use of force against the demonstrators, who are also urged to keep their protest peaceful. To immediately guarantee and create the conditions for the freedom of reporting and independence of all the media in the country.

Two different opinions emerged at the summit in Dublin regarding the issue of how to support and encourage the democratic movement in Serbia, while avoiding any moves that could result in further repression of bloodshed. The Scandinavian countries, Germany and the Netherlands think EU must clearer and stronger support to the democratic opposition in Serbia and its supporters, step up the pressure on Belgrade authorities, and give up its illusions about President Milosevic as the guarantor of stability in Bosnia and the region as a whole. France, on the other hand, is of the opinion that the West must be cautious in the kind of pressure it puts on Milosevic so as to avoid exposing the president's democratic movement to increased repression and possible bloody suppression by the regime. Furthermore, in spite of his indisputable responsibility for the eruption of recent regional wars, France stresses Milosevic's positive role in Dayton and his potential stabilizing impact in the Balkans.

Coalition "Zajedno" announced today that protests against the nullification of the second round electoral results are currently being held in 30 cities in Serbia. Daily gatherings are now taking place in Beograd, Nis, Pirot, Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Sabac, Valjevo, Smederevska Palanka, Jagodina, Pancevo, Lapovo, Paracin, Cuprija, Zajecar, Novi Knezevac, Prokuplje, Krusevac, Negotin, Knjazevac, Bor and Vrsac.

Radio Belgrade's prime time news program commented today on the visit of the 4-member delegation from Belgrade to the US Congressional human rights committee. The state-run radio characterized the four as traitors, whose mission is to slander their country and encourage the US to "destroy it. The four of them have gone to the US to sell out Serbia," said the commentary. Veran Matic, Radio B-92's editor-in-chief, who is a member of this delegation, was said to be best known for using the transmitter of the state-owned radio against the state of Serbia.

The coalition Zajedno organized in Leskovac yesterday for the eleventh day in a row a protest gathering and walk of the citizens through the Siroka carsija and other streets in the center of the town. The citizens held the protest against the annulling of the second ballot of the local elections, from 7 until 9 o'clock. The 5,000 gathered citizens were addressed by Mile Koricanac, delegate from the Democratic party. Another protest gathering has been scheduled for today at 6 o'clock on the central city square.

On last night's 26th protest in Kraljevo, 10,000 people gathered. A report by written to "Vecernje novosti" by Dusan Stojic, the paper's corespondent from Kraljevo, was read which stated that the protest in Kraljevo was larger and larger". After the gathering the walk started, and the number of participants rose u to 12,000. The procession consisted, among others of reporters from local media, attorneys, economists, even directors of some companies, who are members of the Socialist party and United Yugoslav Left.

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