News for January 21st, 1997

The student stand-off with police cordons in Belgrade's Kolarceva Street continued Tuesday, despite freezing weather and fatigue on both sides. The protest began on Sunday at 18:00 hours local time. The students remain determined to continue their action "cordon against cordon" until riot police disperse and allow them to march. The students were joined this evening by the medical staff of Belgrade clinics, who wore white uniforms and carried the medical instruments. The students also got the support of the judges of the Supreme Court of Serbia. Zoran Milosevic, a judge of the Supreme Court of Serbia, expressed his admiration who wish "to secure a better present for their parents, so that their children could have a better future". Around 100 Belgrade actors joined the students of Belgrade University in Kolarceva street at 23:00 tonight. The organizers of the Student Protest announced that the commander of the police unit was hit on the head by a bottle thrown from the crowd. They stated that this incident was caused by provocateurs. The Steering Board of the Student Protest 96/97 told Radio B92 Tuesday morning that shifts will be introduced to enable students to sleep. There will be shifts of 5 hours throughout the day. Starting today, the professors from the Belgrade University will incessantly be with the students, who have decided to stand before the police until it withdraws from the streets of Belgrade. The Steering Board also invited students to go to Belgrade's Blood Bank Tuesday to donate blood for student action "bloodshed." The blood bank publicly thanked students for their voluntary blood donation.

Tens of thousands of Belgrade citizens gathered at central Republic Square on Tuesday on the 63rd day of protests at the November 17 election fraud. Opposition leader and President of the Democratic Party, Zoran Djindjic, compared the current situation in Serbia to a game of chess where one man plays against his own people and loses. President of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Vuk Draskovic, called on the citizens to support the student protest in every way possible and to join them. He also condemned police intervention against demonstrators on Monday. He appealed to the policemen, who have been facing the students for 48 hours already, not to execute "illogical" orders of their superiors. Draskovic said that "none of the policemen in the cordons know why they are on the streets", and reproached the members of the police forces for "the fact that none of them changed sides and joined citizens since December 24th". "We want you to be humans, not robots or clockwork toys. Every one of you is writing their own human biography," Draskovic then told police. After the meeting on Republic Square, the citizens went for their protest march through Knez Mihajlova street, but they were prevented by the police from leaving the pedestrian zone.

The citizens of many Belgrade districts participated in this evening's action of making noise during the prime time news program of the RTS (Serbian National Radio-Television Network), and in many parts of the city, people went for the protest walks. In certain districts, the police attempted to prevent the walks and keep the normal flow of the traffic. In Bulevar Revolucije street, the citizens pushed the garbage containers onto the roadway, in order to stop the traffic. After the prime time news program had finished at 20:00, the police directed the citizens onto the sidewalks, but there were no unwelcome incidents.

Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), accused the Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic today that "by carrying out orders of the Yugoslav Left (JUL) he decided to provoke bloodshed in Serbia at any cost." When asked what is the relation between the students and the "Zajedno" coalition, Draskovic said that the basic request - acknowledgement of the local elections results - is the same, and that the coalition supports all other students' demands.

France has condemned yesterday's beatings of the demonstrators by the Belgrade police and reappealed to the government in Belgrade to acknowledge the local elections' results, Reuters reports.

The organizers of the Student Protest 96/97. condemned the beatings of students which mostly take place either when the students are going to the protest, or leaving it. Bojan Bogdanovic, the spokesman for the Student Protest 96/97. said at a press conference that by unconfirmed, but reliable information, Zoran Trifkovic, student of the School of Electrical Engineering, has been arrested, and is presently in jail.

The "Zajedno" coalition requested from the policemen on the streets of Belgrade today to hold back from the use of violence and told them that the citizens are not in conflict with the police and that they will not be taken in by their provocations. The "Zajedno" coalition warns in its announcement that the members of the police forces will bare all the consequences if they don't restrain themselves from violence.

The USA officials announced today that they were "extremely worried" because of the behaviour of the Serbian Government in the conflict which arose after the local elections. They also accused Belgrade authorities of complicating the matter additionally by using "legal tricks". In its first reaction to the latest announcement made by the Serbian Government, the State Department condemned the authorities in Serbia for using force against the demonstrators.

The escalation of the conflicts must be avoided at any cost, Lamberto Dini, the Chief of Italian Diplomacy stated today to the press in Geneva, where a conference on disarmament is taking place, in regard to the events in Serbia. Dini claims that he has "the assurances and promises" of all three leaders of the coalition that the protests will ceased as soon as the local elections' results from November 17th, previous year, are recognized.

The Serbian Patriarch Pavle summoned all the Orthodox believers, as well as the students of the School of Theology and all the schools of the Belgrade University who "are willing and able" to fast from Wednesday, January 22nd to the holiday of St. Sava, January 27th. In the summon of the Patriarch, it is said that the Holy Bible recommends for either an individual or the whole people, when found in times of trouble, to pray to God and fast.

Seventeen deans and managers of scientific institutes in Belgrade sent an appeal to Zoran Sokolovic, Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which they asked him to give the order that the police cordon in Kolarceva street, in front of which the students of both Belgrade Universities had been standing for more than 48 hours by that time, should be withdrawn. We are of the opinion that everything should be done at this moment to protect the reputation of Serbia in the world: pictures of numerous fully equipped policemen confronted with young, talented girls and boys cause rather unpleasant associations not only among the citizens of our country, but, unfortunately, in the world public as well, reads the appeal.

Approximately 1000 students of the University in Nis continued their protest against the disrespect for the electoral will of the citizens today, by gathering before the Chancellor's Office building, the press-center of the Protest in Nis announced today. After the best banners were awarded prizes, the students marched through the streets of Nis.

Radoslav Nedic, chair of the Jurists' Chamber of Belgrade, told Radio B92 Tuesday that they would send official support to Student Protest 96/97. Mr. Nedic said that the Jurists' Chamber would officially follow up on Monday night's informal gathering of lawyers to support the student stand-off with riot police.

Zoran Predin, Slovene rock singer from Lacni Franc, sent a message of support to Belgrade students on Tuesday. "My wish to you is that you do not lose that truly cosmopolitan sense of humour that has spoken for you during the protest. It was that sense of humour that gathered all the people with different oppinions to the protest. I am keeping my fingers crossed for your success in changing Serbia for the better. I think I am not the only one to do so," his message read.

The condition of Ivica Lazovic, the Zajedno supporter who sustained serious head injuries during the pro-Milosevic counter- rally on December 24, was improving, Rade Vasilic, Deputy Director of the Belgrade Trauma Centre stated on Tuesday. Mr Vasilic said that Ivica Lazovic was fully conscious although the left part of his body remained paralyzed. He added that Lazovic was expected to be transfered to Belgrade's Rehabilitation Institute soon.

Tuesday's issue of the Belgrade daily Nasa Borba reported that Branimir Aleksandric, a medical doctor, has been sacked from his post at the Police Academy. Mr Aleksandric was the first to reject the official cause of death of heart failure for Predrag Starcevic, who died during the clashes of December 24. Mr Aleksandric instead said that Starcevic had died of injuries he sustained due to beating.

The ingoing U.S. Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, told press on Tuesday resolving the crisis in the former Yugoslavia would be one of the her top priorities as U.S. Secretary of State, reported FoNets Slobodan Pavlovic on Tuesday. U.S. broadcast media warned Tuesday that the Socialist appeals against the electoral commission's decision proved Serbian President Milosevic had no intention of bowing to international pressure to recognize opposition victories in the November local elections. American National Public Radio predicted that the international community would have to step up pressure if it were to force President Milosevic to start the process of democratization in Serbia. That radio also reported that the opposition coalition Zajedno had called on the Yugoslav Army to side with the people in order to avert the civil war that Milosevic and his spouse Markovic were attempting to provoke in Serbia.

The Serbian government considered and adopted the findings of the Ministry of Justice concerning local elections in some constituencies in Serbia on Tuesday. The government stated that the elections in eight cities, mentioned in the OSCE report on election irregularities in November, had been carried out accordance with the law. The Ministry of Justice thus rejected the OSCE findings in those eight towns. The Ministry ruling means that the wins of opposition Zajedno have not been recognised by the government.

Zajedno legal advisor, professor Dragor Hiber, stated that he Serbian government statement was confusing. "The government is not an institution able to rule on election results. We cannot see the opinion of the government in that statement. They mention cities where results have been annuled and Socialist rule constituted. They do not mention Belgrade, nor the fact that Belgrade Electoral Commission confirmed the victory of the coalition Zajedno there. We will fight for every seat we won," said professor Hiber.

The Belgrade Electoral Commission demanded late Monday that the President of the Supreme Court of Serbia, Municipal Court, and all their deputies, be excluded from legal rulings about the elections because they, in the Commission's words, 'were biased'.

Ivan Stambolic, President of the Yugoslav Bank for International Economic Co-operation and former Serbian President, said in an interview for Belgrade daily Demokratija that it was good that the opposition did not have enough power to topple the goverment from the streets. He explained that "force can neither keep one leadership in power, nor can it bring a better government to power." According to Mr Stambolic the precondition for the solution of the current crisis was the recognition of November election results.

Former Spanish Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, who headed the OSCE fact-finding mission to Belgrade last December, stated Tuesday that the Serbian authorities must recognize in full the victory of the opposition in those cities where their wins had been annuled, reported Reuters Tuesday. Mr. Gonzalez, who is attending the convention of the Socialist Internationale in Rome, also said that he had been invited by Yugoslav Foreign Minister, Milan Milutinovic, to visit Belgrade again. "I told him that I would go only if I were invited by the international community to implement the conclusions of my report. I rejected alternative options... I do not think there are any alternative options, " Mr. Gonzalez said.

United Nations Special Envoy for Human Rights, Elisabeth Rhen, stated that political conflict and violence in Kosovo could lead to civil war, Reuters reported on Tuesday. At a press conference in Helsinki, Rhen said that if the political crisis in Serbia were to spread to Kosovo "there could be real explosion and fire, and we could face a civil war there."

High Commissioner for Bosnia, Karl Bildt, expressed "grave concern at the growing tensions in Kosovo and the danger of the extremist elements on both sides," on Tuesday. Mr. Bildt said the situation in Kosovo should be put on the agenda of the international community as soon as possible. "I do not insist on the internationalization of the problem, I insist on solving it," said Bildt said. Mr. Bildt also commented that, so far, events in Serbia had not had any impact on Bosnia, except for the devalvation of the Yugoslav dinar which has influenced the economy of 'Republica Srpska'.

Leader of the French National Front, Jean Marie Le Pen, arrived in Belgrade on Tuesday at the invitation of the Serbian Radical Party. Mr. Le Pen stated that the "communist dictatorship of Mr. Milosevic had caused divisions in Serbia" and stressed his "sympathy for the opposition protests in Belgrade against their totalitarian regime and for the democracy." Le Penn also said the "deepening of brotherhood with Serbia and its people, who were the traditional friends of France," was the main reason for his visit.

Branislav Malesevic, the main dispatcher of the City Transport Firm of Belgrade (GSP) said today that "there is no chance" of normalizing the city transportation from Slavija to Kalemegdan until the blocking of Kolarceva street is ended.

The Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is hoping that "by creating a circus from the court decisions regarding the annulment of the local elections' results will contribute to the weakening of the protest", today's London "Financial Times" writes. "Milosevic's regime raised the bets during the weekend by playing the Kosovo card, and the state television broadcast the accusations of the socialist mayor of Pristina that the "Zajedno" coalition orchestrated the planting of the automobile-bomb whose explosion caused serious injuries of the Pristina University Chancellor", the newspaper writes, and the BBC radio transmits in its Serbian language program.

Vesna Pesic, the President of the Civil Alliance of Serbia (GSS) left for Rome today, on an invitation of Pierre Moro, the President of the Socialist International (SI), GSS announced today. She will, together with the former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzales, participate in the meeting of the SI members in the discussion on the events in FR Yugoslavia following the municipal elections from November 17th and the way out of the crisis.

Rade Vasilic, the deputy manager of the Belgrade Trauma Center, told the Beta news agency that two people were brought to this Center last night, "slightly" wounded during the protest march in Belgrade.

Tomislav Banovic, the President of the Alliance of Syndicates of Serbia, stated that the Serbian government will, either today or tomorrow, deliver the draft of the law on privatization of the public property.

One of the leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition, Vesna Pesic, made a statement to the French journal "Figaro" that the authorities in Belgrade have decided not to return the electoral victory to the opposition, and appealed to the international community to force the President Slobodan Milosevic to have a change of heart by means of "sanctions against the regime", and not against the people. Vesna Pesic interceded in the favor of, as the "Figaro" states, "personalized sanctions, of the European Union especially, aimed at the personality of the Chief of Serbian state".

The new city authorities in Nis announced today that they will allow the organization of the Nis journal "Narodne novine" on the market principles and will leave the election of the head editor to the journalists.

The delivery of summons to the representatives for the constitutional session of the City Assembly in Nis, which will take place on January 27th at noon, began today. Zoran Zivkovic, leader of the "Zajedno" coalition told the press that there is no such higher force which could possibly prevent the constitution of the new City Assembly.

One of the leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition, Vuk Draskovic, stated today to the Belgian newspaper "Le Soir" that "the international community, headed with the USA, is, in a strange way encouraging Milosevic not to pay respect to any kind of promise", when the obligations of the Dayton agreement are considered, and that, for this reason, he "will not pay respect to the results of the elections in Serbia either".

A fair number of the high school syndicate boards in the Municipality of Uzice supported the decision of the Republic syndicate to completely suspend classes in the second term, it was announced today in the Municipal Syndicate Board. It was decided for the meeting of teachers in Uzice, on which their status will be discussed, to take place on January 27th.

The Presidency of the Syndicate Board of the Pirot County Board of the education, science, culture and art employees accepted the decision of the Republic Board to start a general strike as of tomorrow. The strike is being justified with difficult social conditions of those employed in these areas. The second term in the schools of Pirot is to start tomorrow.

The first constitutional session of the City Assembly of Nis, which will have the majority of the representatives from the "Zajedno" coalition, will be transmitted directly by the television on one of the city squares, Toplica Djordjevic, a coalition's leader announced today. The rain and the temperature decrease haven't prevented the coalition's supporters from coming out on the city square for the 65th time and repeating that they will not allow their votes to be manipulated with.

The State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, is willing to offer to act as mediator in the resolution of the citizen conflict in Yugoslavia, Vladimir Lukin, the President of the Parliamentary Committee for International Relations told FoNet today. As Branko Stosic, FoNet's correspondent informs, Lukin said that the Balkans is not among top priorities of the Russian international policy, but pointed out that Russia shouldn't stay on the side considering the events both in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, not only because of the tradition, but also among mutual emotions which exist among the Slavic peoples.

Dusan Vasiljevic, the spokesman for the Student Protest 96/97, who is presently in Washington, will meet with John Shatack, assistant to the State Secretary for Human Rights and with Joe Duffy, Chief of the US Information Agency today, Bojan Bogdanovic, the spokesman for the Student Protest 96/97. announced today. He stated at a press conference that Vasiljevic will also have talks with the advisors of Trent Lott, leader of the Republicans in the lower house, and of Jesse Trent, member of the Congressional Committee for International Relations, with Congressman Joe Hamilton, as well as with the representatives of the Institute for International Relations - the Balkans department. Vasiljevic will give interviews to CNN and to the Serbian editorial staff of "Voice of America", Bogdanovic said.

The Federal Minister of Internal Affairs, Vukasin Jokanovic stated that the Albanians and the Serbs on Kosovo "should and must live together" and that "dialogue, the creation of the atmosphere of trust and the quicker problem solving are inevitable".

The Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic doesn't want to face defeat in the Assembly of Belgrade, and will for this reason probably suggest a temporary two month management, and then the organization of new local elections, the Greek commercial TV station Mega reports today, referring to the well informed sources. The station estimates that "tension is culminating" in Belgrade and that "nervousness is noticeable on the streets, since the patience of the police, which have severely beatenmany demonstrators, has run out".

The taxi-drivers of Belgrade did not block the Belgrade bridges as they announced, but joined the protests of the citizens and students against the annulment of the local elections by driving slowly through the city streets. Milco Ristovski, the representative of Belgrade's taxi-drivers said today that the police threatened the taxi-drivers who protest by driving slowly through the streets of Belgrade and that driving licences were taken away from some drivers. Ristovski said that the policemen confiscated the licences while they were waiting for traffic-light changes, and announced that the taxi-drivers will demand for their permits to be returned, or will start a strike. The taxi-drivers were prevented from communicating by radio, since their main telephone exchange was mostly blocked. They told the reporters that the management of "Beotaksi" was threatened that their frequency will be taken away if they summon other taxi-drivers to the protest.

The French journal "Le Monde" estimates today that the "hard line within Serbian authorities, by returning to methods which have been successful in the late eighties, has attempted to make use of the escalation of tension on Kosovo in the last few days, in order to remove attention from the protest movement and to discredit its leaders". "Le Mond" adds that "the Serbian state controlled media accused the oppositional coalition 'Zajedno' of its connection with the assaults" on Kosovo, and adds that the leaders of the opposition replied that "the authorities are spurring the disorders on Kosovo" and quotes the words of the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Vuk Draskovic, that "Milosevic is preparing a war".

Although the oppositional coalition in Serbia bears the name "Zajedno" (together), until only recently, it was precisely the element of togetherness that this group was lacking, the American weekly "Time" writes in its latest issue.

The Municipal Organization of the oppositional coalition "Zajedno" in Koceljevo evaluated today as "incorrect" the recent announcement of the County Board of the Socialist Party of Serbia in the county of Macva in which the "Zajedno" coalition is accused for "the radicalization of the political situation" in Sabac, Loznica, Bogatic and Koceljevo.

On the request of the oldest part of Kragujevac, Pivara, today's protest rally took place in this local community, whose inhabitants greeted the participants in the protest procession with home-made bread and salt. During the procession's departure to the Pivara community, the participants in the protest sang laments to Slobodan Milosevic and his wife, "saying good-bye with pain and grief".

Vojin Dimitrijevic, the president of the Foreign policy board of the Serbian Civil Alliance (GSS), stated in Prague today that he believed "the democratic and civilized Serbia can expect the support of the Czech Republic". His four-day visit to Prague ended today. During the visit, he met the representatives of both Houses of Czech Parliament, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and the leading officials in the Cabinet of the president of the Czech Republic.

It is the people of Serbia that decide whether they want democracy and determine the intensity of their struggle for it, but what the West does and says in order to encourage the democratic forces is of great significance, writes Morton Abramowitz in today's issue of the International Herald Tribune. If one word could describe the policy of the West towards Yugoslavia during the past seven years, than it would be "indecisiveness", stated Abramowitz, the president of the Carnegy foundation for international peace.

Sali Berisha, the President of Albania, received today Hydaet Hyseni, the vice-president of the Democratic Union of Kosovo, with whom he discussed the situation at Kosovo. Berisha pointed out that Tirana had not changed its political position towards the Albanian issue at Kosovo and expressed his support for the peaceful means used by the Albanians at Kosovo for obtaining their human and national rights. Berisha said that all those who saw Kosovo as a map in Milosevic's hands were deceived.

Around 1,000 supporters of the oppositional "Zajedno" coalition in Pirot protested again this evening against the annulment of the results of the second round of the local elections. The police banned the walk in the town streets, so the citizens of Pirot walked in circles in front of the police cordons with their hands on the backs of their heads, like prisoners.

Vesna Pesic, president of the Civil Alliance of Serbia, stated in Rome today that the negotiations between the oppositional parties and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic could begin only after the election results annulled by the authorities had been reinstated.

The citizens of Jagodina and the supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition managed this evening, more than twenty days after the police had banned the protest walks in the streets of that town, to break through the police squads. Around 2,000 citizens managed to break through the first cordon, telling the policemen that they should arrest those who had stolen their votes and ordered the police to beat their fellow-citizens. The similar procedure repeated at several junctions, so that the police finally stopped attempting to prevent the citizens from walking. The protest rally ended in the center of the town around 19:30, when the action of making noise began.

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