News for December 22nd, 1996

The protest rally of the students of Belgrade University started today at 18:30 at Plato in front of the School of Philosophy, from where they started their evening walk along the central Belgrade streets. The students, who have been protesting for 29th day now against violation of the electoral will of citizens, carried lamps and candles, symbolically dispelling the darkness which emanates from the state-controlled media. The students paid their respect to Mica Popovic, painter and academician who died this morning, with a moment of silence. Mica Popovic was one of the first people who expressed his support for the Student Protest '96. The steering board of the Student Protest '96 invited all those who have participated in or addressed the student protest to gather at Plato Tuesday noon - the time set for the Socialist rally. They stressed that students want no clashes with the police, but added that they will not allow a state of emergency to be enforced. They announced they are planning their biggest protest march to take place on Tuesday.

The students of Nis canceled the announced appearance of the vice-president of the Democratic Party of Serbia, Vladeta Jankovic, stated the spokesman for the Board of the Student Protest. Party officials have not had the opportunity to address the students, so neither will Jankovic, expressing the respect the students have for the professor and scientist from DSS.

Despite the near freezing temperatures in Belgrade today, the 33rd consecutive protest march organized by the coalition "Zajedno" again gathered tens of thousands of the citizens of Belgrade. The demonstrators paused in front of the state television, Radio Belgrade and the newspaper "Politika", setting off dozens of firecrackers at each stop. The final part of the protest took place in Belgrade's central Republic Square. It began with a moment of silence to mark the death of Mica Popovic, member of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the best known contemporary Yugoslav painters, and, as was emphasized at tonight's rally, a great fighter for democracy in Serbia. Addressing the demonstrators, Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party, said that the counter-rallies organized by the SPS (the ruling party) have shown that the Socialists do not have grassroots support. He said that it is obvious who has won the elections. He estimated that Serbia will enter the 21st century in the first week of 1997.

At the start of a two-day conference on human rights, organized by the Center for Human Rights in Belgrade and the Center for Antiwar Actions, emphasis was given to the lack of education on the subject of human rights among journalists and newspaper editors and the tendency of journalists to lift the level of conflict on a higher level when it becomes more difficult to solve.

Several tens of thousands of people from Valjevo, who started towards Belgrade on foot in protest to the annulment of electoral results, passed through Banovo Brdo (settlement on outskirts of Belgrade) at 10.00 h this morning. They were greeted by the people of Banovo Brdo and are to join the protest gathering of the "Zajedno coalition" at 15.00 h.

The ex-intermediary for former Yugoslavia in the UN, Mr. Thorvald Stoltenberg, blamed Washington for the failure of western powers to find a peaceful solution for Bosnia at the beginning of its crisis. He said that America, until then, considered Milosevic to be the man who caused the war to start but still trusted him because of his power to put pressure on Bosnian Serbs.

The Republic Ministry of Science and Education ordered for the holding of sessions of Staff boards of all the University Schools, in order to cancel the decisions of official support to the Student Protest made by the School Council earlier on, stated Nikola Bozinovic, spokesman for the student protest in Nis. He said that seven of the eight schools in Nis have pledged their support to the causes of the student protest. "The University of Nis is the only one in Serbia at which there is an absolute unity of the student protest, Student Alliance and our professors" said Bozinovic.

Chief of the Legal Council of the coalition Zajedno, Dragor Hiber stated today that he expects the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to confirm the prime results of the local elections in Serbia, held on November 17. He reminded that the legal service of Civil Alliance has given the full documentation to the OSCE commission, which should prove all the "manipulations" of the 1996 elections. "We have information that the President of the City Electoral Committee in Belgrade confirmed the exsitence of the authentic records, the "inexsitence" of which was the reason for the court to take away the mandates of the opposition in Belgrade", said Dragor Hiber.

Djordje Garabasevic, the president of the Independent Syndicate of Serbian Farmers, stated today for Beta news agency that at 10:00 tomorrow the members of that syndicate would start blocking all the highways in Serbia. The farmers of Serbia are demanding the payment of their produce. They also request that the State should stop pressing the farmers into paying taxes until it has settled all its debts.

A rally of Serbian emigrants was held today in front of the Yugoslav Consulate in Sydney. It was a gesture of protest against the decision of the authorities in Belgrade to annul the results of local elections in a number of cities and municipalities in Serbia.

Zoran Djindjic, President of the Democratic Party, stated that after the visit of the OSCE delegation, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic would have to choose one of the alternative solutions by the end of the year. He could either ignore the suggestions which will be given by the OSCE delegation, risking further isolation of Serbia and the aggravation of the political situation, or to try to find some way out for himself.

The first Congress of the Alliance of Free Cities and Municipalities of Serbia was held in Belgrade today. Representatives of more than 30 municipalities in which the opposition won the local elections participated in the work of the Congress. It was decided that the local self-government bill, based upon the European declaration of local self-government (1985), should be sent to Serbian Parliament. It was decided that these municipalities should coordinate their activities in the spheres of economy and the media, in order to preserve their newly elected authorities. Another meeting of the representatives of the oppositional municipalities is scheduled for Thursday.

Stronger and stronger opposition against Milosevic's regime is the expression of the citizens' anger provoked by his autocratic rule, the falsifying of political will of the people and ignoring the civil rights, said Dobrica Cosic, writer and former President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in the interview published in "Zice" (a Warsaw newspaper).

Spanish "El Pais" daily newspaper comments today the situation in Serbia and supports the democratic opposition because the future of the whole region depends on the transformation of Serbia into a democratic state. According to this newspaper, the stability in the region depends on the fundamental change in Belgrade, because all Milosevic's tricks, manipulations and crime could cause conflicts at Kosovo, the renewal of conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia, as well as the intensifying of the crisis in Serbia itself.

Several thousands of the citizens of Sabac gathered today at the 22nd protest rally against the annulment of the second round of local elections. It was announced at the rally that the "7.jul" transportation company from Sabac following the directive, was preparing around 40 buses to take people to Belgrade on Tuesday, when the pro-Milosevic rally will take place. Another protest rally is scheduled for 15.00 tomorrow.

Daniel Mitteran, the widow of Francois Mitteran, former Prime Minister of France, arrived in Belgrade today, as the guest of the Center for Cultural Decontamination. She stated that the voice of Serbian people was heard in the world in spite of electoral manipulations, and expressed her approval of the peaceful character of the protest. She also said that she came to support the demands for the recognition of basic human rights.

Lamberto Dini, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that he had, in agreement with the European and Atlantic Community, appealed to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in their recent conversation to be reasonable, to accept dialogue and to recognize the results of the elections. In his letter to the "Coriere de la sera", he said that the peace on the Balkans today cannot be achieved at the expense of democracy, but only through it.

During today's counter-rally organized by the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) in Smederevo, the police arrested three citizens of Smederevo, who were expressing their disapproval of the pro-Milosevic rally by booing. The police beat two of the citizens during the arrest, communicates the information center of the "Zajedno" coalition. According to the statement of the "Zajedno" coalition, 200 citizens of Smederevo and around 300 citizens bused from Sabac, Pancevo, Kovin and Smederevska Palanka attended the pro-Milosevic rally. Several thousands of the citizens of Smederevo gathered and "welcomed" the socialists with boos. The "Zajedno" coalition informs that the police prevented foreign reporters from shooting during the rally, letting only the RTS-crew take pictures of the events.

In front of more than 15,000 citizens gathered in Nis at the protest rally against the annulment of the second round of elections, Slobodan Gavrilovic, the vice-president of the Democratic Party said that Serbia would be governed those who are elected by the will of the people, and not by the will of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. He added that the authorities in Serbia fear the defeat in the large cities because the "Zajedno" coalition introduces new policies and demands fundamental changes.

The citizens who participate in the rallies organized by SPS should be pitied because they too have been robbed and humiliated by the regime, stated the leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition at this evening's Belgrade rally against the annulment of local elections. In front of at least 100,000 people, Zoran Djindjic, the leader of the Democratic Party, said that Slobodan Milosevic came into power by busing people to rallies. He is doing the same thing now, only today he is defended by social welfare cases.

Representatives of the United Branch Syndicate "Nezavisnost" from Kragujevac conversed today via satellite with the colleagues from Leipzig "16 Metal" Syndicate. The representative of the German syndicate stated that German workers are not well-informed about the events in Serbia, since the information from Serbia are one-sided to high degree. He stressed the importance of strengthening the syndicate, since it is well-known that the state syndicate does not struggle for the rights of workers.

Another protest rally of the "Zajedno" coalition was held in Prokuplje today. According to the estimation of Bratislav Jovanovic, the representative of the "Zajedno" coalition in Prokuplje, around 3,000 citizens protested today against the annulment of the results of the second round of local elections. He also said that 17 buses brought the followers of SPS to the station in Prokuplje, where the pro-Milosevic rally was scheduled for 13:00

A group of "uniformed persons" prevented today Milovan Simic, the president of the Count board of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) in Ljubovija, and seven more more members of the SPO to join the rally of the "Zajedno" coalition in Belgrade, reports the information center of the SPO today.

Albanian state-television accused this evening the authorities in Serbia of instigating a new pressure campaign against Albanians. The rallies organized by the authorities at Kosovo are not planned as counter-rallies, which are supposed to be the respond to the protests of the opposition, but as a new tide of anti-Albanian nationalism, reports the Albanian television.

Around 10,000 citizens of Kraljevo protested today against the annulment of the second round of local elections in Serbia A pro-Milosevic rally has been announced for 14:00 tomorrow in Kraljevo.

The 17th protest rally against the annulment of the second round of local elections was held in Leskovac this evening. Around 5,000 citizens of Leskovac participated in the rally. This high number of protesters prompted the representatives of the Democratic Party and SPO to state that Leskovac is not the stronghold of the SPS and the Yugoslav Left (JUL) any longer.

The thirty-fourth consecutive protest meeting of "Zajedno" supporters was held in Jagodina tonight. Some 5,000 people gathered in the city center and then "promenaded" its streets.

Russian ambassador to Belgrade, Vladimir Sestov, said today if the tensions between the authorities and the opposition in Yugoslavia continue to grow more serious, this might lead to clashes among the states formed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia and make the Dayton accords fall flat, with negative consequences for the whole of Europe. Sestov, a Russian representative in the OSCE mission that visited Belgrade, pointed to the "dangerous stubbornness of both the authorities and the opposition". He added that neither the Belgrade authorities nor the opposition should exploit the OSCE delegation's visit or its conclusions opportunistically.

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