News for December 16th, 1996

The Steering Board of the Student Protest '96 invited the students gathered for today's protest march through Belgrade to set out to meet their counterparts who are currently on a marathon walk from Nis. The welcoming party is to gather in front of the St. Marko Church at midnight tonight. The board also announced that the students will join the workers' protest, scheduled for tomorrow by the Association of Branch Unions. They are to bring refuse and old rags to the Serbian Parliament as a symbol of the poverty Serbia is facing.

Today the students of the University of Kragujevac sent a message to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic by putting it into a bottle which they threw into the Lepenica river, since it is "the only way" for the students to contact President of Serbia. "In spite of the fast railroad, fast postal system, fast lorries and everything you did fast, we chose our fast river, which is little, but it seems to be the only remaining way to reach your premises," read the beginning lines of the message from the Kragujevac students.

The Steering Board of the Student Protest in Nis called on the parents of University of Nis students to side with them: "Our lives have been put in grate jeopardy by the illegal actions the authorities have taken and we have to fight for our existence on the streets." A few thousands of students of the University of Nis went for a long walk along the streets of Nis, expressing their solidarity with the students who had started for Belgrade. The students called on the workers of Nis to stage protest strikes in support of the democracy movement.

School Council of the University of Nis supported unanimously today the students' demands for the electoral will of the people expressed at the municipal elections to be respected, which is one of the reasons for their protest that last for four weeks now. The School Council advised the Schools to schedule regular lessons as soon as possible, in order to let the students finish the semester. The autonomy of the University must be kept, so all the teachers and students have been called upon to stay away from the political parties, which was concluded at the session.

The Spokesman of the Initiative Committee of the Student Protest, Dusan Vasiljevic stated today that the delegation of the students of the School of Medicine was physically stopped from giving the Dean of this school the open letter. "The delegation was not allowed to enter the part of the building where the Dean's office is, by the people from a private security agency hired by the Dean in person", stated Vasiljevic today.

The students of the School for Training Special Education Teachers addressed an open letter to their professors and colleagues, appealing to them to join the protest walks which start at Plato at 12:00 every day.

A few hundreds of Subotica students protested today at the central town square. Their rally was a sign of support to their colleagues from other cities of Serbia, who have been protesting against the violation of the electoral will of citizens for several weeks now.

The German-based international media-support organization "Internationale Medienhilfe" announced today in Hennef that Radio B92 has been selected as this year's best radio station. Radio B92 won the award in the name of all radio stations operating in the region of former Yugoslavia which offer "objective coverage under constant repression by the authorities." Internationale Medienhilfe's statement said that Radio B92 has shown incredible courage and determination and that the award it won is considered one of the most important radio awards world-wide.

Zoran Djindjic and Vesna Pesic, leaders of Zajedno, had talks in Belgrade today with a delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council, headed by its vice-president Andrea Barsogni. A statement by Zajedno said that the delegation expressed support for the democratic processes in Serbia which, they said, were the focus of European attention at this time.

Some 100,000 people turned out on the streets of Belgrade today for the 27th protest "walk" against the nullification of the November 17 electoral results. In their address to the demonstrators, the leaders of the coalition Zajedno said: "Although the world supports our struggle, none but us can defend our victory. There will be no talks with the regime until the electoral results are restored." The puppet representing Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in a convict's attire was not observed today.

The Association of Branch Unions "Nezavisnost" (Independence) called on all "employed and unemployed" workers to gather tomorrow at 11 a.m. for a march to the Serbian Parliament.

John Cornblum, assistant of the American Secretary of State for European issues demanded today of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to fulfil the requests of the oppositional "Zajedno" coalition and recognize the results of the municipal elections.

Ivan Vujacic, a high official of the Democratic Party (DS), said today that the talks with John Cornblum, US Assistant Secretary of State, were "very positive" for the "Zajedno" coalition. "Cornblum's and the American Government's attitudes are identical with the attitudes of the "Zajedno" coalition", said Vujacic for the BETA agency. He was in Geneva yesterday with Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, and Vojin Dimitrijevic, the representative of the Civil Alliance, where they talked to Cornblum. Cornblum also approved of the peaceful protest of the "Zajedno" coalition and of the manner in which they struggle for the respect of the people's will and gave the delegation a message of very strong support for the democratic forces in Serbia.

Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini sent a letter to leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement Vuk Draskovic, dismissing the criticisms Draskovic made last week, said today the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to Dini, it was Draskovic's own assessment that it is improbable the Yugoslav government would meet the opposition's demand for clear and simple acknowledgment of electoral results of November 17th. Dini's letter stressed he finds the initiative launched by the Serbian Government and Parliament, inviting an OSCE delegation to Belgrade to look into the legality of the recent elections, an important and satisfactory development.

The Municipal Court of Smederevska Palanka instructed the Smederevska Palanka Electoral Committee today to acknowledge the results of the second round of local elections, thus restoring to Zajedno its electoral victory in this town. Spokesman for the Democratic Party, Slobodan Vuksanovic, said that this ruling--together with the decision of the Municipal Court of Nis--"are the first hints that the Socialists and President Milosevic himself have opened their eyes and are beginning to see the reality around them. People are protesting in 32 cities across Serbia." Nevertheless, Vuksanovic added, knowing well the past inconsistencies of the ruling party, coalition Zajedno will not give in or let up with the intensity of demonstrations until all the electoral victories in all the cities are restored to it.

Several hundred workers gathered today at the Mechanical Industry of Nis to protest against the letter of support they allegedly sent to President Milosevic. They told Radio B92 they had in no way participated in drafting the letter Radio Television of Serbia made public last night. They demand the management of the company, who have misused their authority, take the responsibility for promulgating such propaganda. Also, the Syndicate of the Mechanical Industry Nis (MIN) dissociated today from the letter of support sent by that company to President Slobodan Milosevic. The authorized committees of the Syndicate were not consulted and they did not participate in writing the text of the letter which was made public through the media, reads the statement of the Syndicate.

Today around 5,000 workers of the Mechanical Industry of Nis (MIN) joined for the first time the protest against the annulment of the results of the second round of municipal elections.

The High Commissioner of the international community for Bosnia, Carl Bildt warned today that "Serbia is threatened by a catastrophe if the situation is not resolved in a peaceful and regular fashion." "If there is no peaceful change in Serbia, I think the region will be threatened by a catastrophe the next few years", said Bildt in Geneva, where he attended an international conference on humanitarian matters. Answering the question whether Milosevic should give up his post, Bildt answered that "there must be a democratic process. Whoever is elected to carry out this process must take responsibility for the essential changes." "Milosevic must admit that he must step down", said Bildt.

"The official visit of the vice-president of the Yugoslav government, Nikola Sainovic to London was postponed because our government finds the moment to be inappropriate", stated a spokesman for the Foreign Office.

Margit Savovic, the Yugoslav Minister for Human Rights, refused today to give a comment on the protests of the citizens of Serbia. "I would not talk about it now", said Savovic for the BETA agency.

Jevgenij Primakov, the Russian Foreign Minister, stated today that the dispute between Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbian opposition is an internal matter, and he warned other countries not to interfere in that dispute. Primakov added that Russia approved of the recent visit of Lamberto Dini, Head of Italian diplomacy, to Belgrade, after which the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia invited OSCE to help the solving of the crisis.

Vuk Draskovic, the president of the Serbian Renewal Movement, said in a live interview for the Russian Independent Television that Jevgenij Primakov, Russian Foreign Minister, insulted the Serbian people by approving of the electoral theft committed by Slobodan Milosevic.

The delegate group of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) decided today to participate in the conference of Serbian Parliament scheduled for 17th December. The delegate group of the SRS will insist on the discussion about the political situation ensuing the federal and the municipal elections. The SRS claims that Parliament is obliged "to prevent the mistakes which could be made by the "Zajedno" coalition and the Serbian Socialist Party, and which would push Serbia into deeper and severer conflicts".

The Council of the Young Socialists of Serbia expressed its support for the letter from Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to Warren Christopher, the American Secretary of State. The Council also condemned the "humble attitude" of a part of the Serbian opposition towards the international community.

The Belgian daily newspaper "Soar" reported today that "giant demonstrations in Serbian capital are continuing...without diminishing, in spite of all prognoses". The "Soar" concluded that the demonstrators of the "Zajedno" coalition and the students are not satisfied with the "opening" offered by President Milosevic.

The Lawmaking Board of Serbian Parliament rejected the suggestion that a committee consisting of the representatives of different parties should be formed, in order to enquire into all the circumstances connected with the elections. The Board also rejected the suggestion that the question of destroying the legal system by pressuring the courts during the electoral procedure.

The Information center of non-governmental organizations reports today that at least 23 participants of the demonstrations in Belgrade and other Serbian cities have been arrested between 29th November and 6th December this year. The demonstrations are organized as a sign of protest against the annulment of the second round of municipal elections. Today's bulletin (No. 10) of the Information center informs that it seems the arrests of the demonstrators "ceased" on 9th December this year. The informative center reports that at least five convicted demonstrators, one of whom is Dejan Bulatovic ("the badly beaten youth from Sid"), are still in prison. The Informative center states that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic did not mention Bulatovic's case once in his answer to the letter from Warren Christopher, the American Secretary of State; instead, he said that "we have a very professional and disciplined police". The bulletin also informs the public that Feriz Bljakcori, an Albanian teacher, was beaten to death in the police station in Pristina on 9th December 1996.

A few thousands of citizens of Kragujevac and students from Kragujevac University continued today their protest against the annulment of the results of the second round of municipal elections in Serbia.

Around 5,000 citizens of Bor gathered today, on the 7th day of protest against the annulment of the results of municipal elections, in front of the Cultural Center. The procession of demonstrators went through the parts of town which are inhabited by the richest citizens of Bor.

A few thousands of citizens of Jagodina protested this evening against the annulment of the results of the second round of municipal elections. They gathered in front of the building of the Town Assembly. More and more citizens join in the peaceful protest walks through the streets of Jagodina. They are determined not to give up until the stolen votes have been returned.

More than 10,000 citizens of Valjevo gathered this evening at the 12th protest rally against the annulment of the second round electoral results. The citizens of Valjevo went this evening for the longest walk up to now.

Around 1,000 citizens of Zajecar participated in this evening's rally of the "Zajedno" coalition at Liberation Square. In spite of the cold weather, the greatest number of the citizens up to now took to the streets of Zajecar on the 12th day of the protest.

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic received a delegation of the Student Cultural center (SKC) lead by Slavoljub Veselinovic, the manager of the SKC. On the 25th anniversary of the founding of that institution, Serbian President was awarded a special Charter by the delegation of the SKC. President Milosevic thanked them for the Charter and congratulated the SKC on its anniversary; he wished them success in their cultural work and good cooperation with institutions of the same kind in other countries, reads the statement broadcasted through Belgrade media.

Vesko Blazic, the president of the Youth of the Serbian Renewal Movement, gave the message of the leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition - Vuk Draskovic, Zoran Djindjic and Vesna Pesic - to the citizens of Pirot, in which they appealed to the citizens "to remain together until the final victory". A few thousands of the citizens of Pirot protested this evening, for the 18th time, against the annulment of the second round of municipal elections in many Serbian cities.

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