News for December 23rd, 1996

Dozens of thousands of students attended the 33rd student protest at the nullification of the local electoral results in front of the School of Philosophy today. Today's protest began with a hymn to St. Sava [Serbian patron saint of schools] followed by a public reading of the letter Patriarch Pavle, head of Serbian Orthodox Church, has sent to the University of Belgrade students. After an address by several prominent university professors, the students went for their protest march through Belgrade streets.

The Serbian Patriarch, His Holiness Pavle sent a letter of support today to the UofB students who have been protesting peacefully for over a month now. "It is good to see that you are expressing your commitment to high ideals in a peaceful and dignified manner, which is not always characteristic of youth when it goes out to express itself en masse," the letter stressed.

Head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Pavle, today appealed to the citizens and the authorities of Serbia, expressing "deepest worries" about the so called "counter-rallies" announced for tomorrow by the Socialists. The Head of the Serbian Orthodox Church appealed to the opposition parties, and especially student protesters, to maintain their commitment to truth and to non-violence.

The Steering Board of the Student Protest '96 issued an official statement today in which it warns the public about the seriousness of the situation Serbia is in now and calls for utmost civility during tomorrow's demonstrations. "If we show that we can peacefully protest on the streets beside them, it means that we will be able to work together with them tomorrow, for the benefit of the whole country. Anything else would be a disaster. We appeal for maximum tolerance and reason. There are two Serbias today and they do not understand each other. May they let their children, at least, be the bridge of understanding between them. Listen to us, do hear us: we want to remind you that we all speak the same language. We are all brothers. We are all human beings," ends the statement of the Belgrade Student Protest '96.

Dusan Vasiljevic, the spokesman of the Student Protest '96, stated today that the students' demonstrations have largely improved the image of Serbia in the world and that they prove that a great potential exists in serbia. He said that the factual results of the Student Protest are the recognition of the election results in Nis, the visit of the OSCE delegation and the permission for the Radio B92 and Radio Index to unhindered work. Vasiljevic said that the members of the OSCE delegation are very well informed about the situation in Serbia, and that the decision, whatever it might be cannot be caused by their ignorance of the facts.

The students of Nis University organized today the 33rd consecutive rally. Today's protest was marked by the action which took place in front of the building of the television, which is generally held responsible for the complete media blockade. The students symbolically proved that they "broadcast" the news faster than the television, which had not announced the results of the second round of local elections 36 days after the voting took place.

Several tens of thousands of Belgrade citizens gathered today at the 34th protest rally against the annulment of local elections. They started their protest march from Terazije around 15:00. Leaders of the coalition Zajedno today called their supporters to gather tomorrow in as great numbers as possible and at the usual time, which will tomorrow coincide with the time of the announced pro-Socialist rally, and they appealed to the citizens of Belgrade to greet the participants of tomorrow's pro-Milosevic rally peacefully and to refrain from violence. Head of the Civil Alliance of Serbia, Mrs. Vesna Pesic, said: "Don't let any incident happen. We will go for our usual protest walk, let them hold their counter-rally, we will not disturb them." Tomorrow's protest walk will be led by a group of Belgrade's most prominent citizens, including the city's writers, actors, singers, theater and film directors, clergy, lawyers and journalists, announced coalition Zajedno.

According to the recent survey conducted by the agency "Partner", every fifth citizen of Serbia supports anti-Milosevic protests. Almost half of the people above 56 years of age do not support protests of Zajedno, and 37% of those between 18 and 35 are in favor of the protests.

15,000 Nisans turned out yesterday for their 35th consecutive protest meeting. Mihajlo Kovac was among the speakers who received the crowd's loudest cheers. He is one of the group of highly acclaimed journalists who had once worked for Radio Television Serbia but were either sacked or left the state-owned media themselves. The Nis protesters have 3 more days to go to break the world record in non-violent demonstrations.

Today, the supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition in Nis held their protest rally in front of the "Nisekspres" public transportation firm, which will carry the citizens to the pro-Milosevic rally in Belgrade tomorrow by 110 buses. Vuk Draskovic, president of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), stated today in Nis that one of the first moves of the "Zajedno" coalition after its victory has been acknowledged would be to free the "Studio B" television station. He added that that serbian President Slobodan Milosevic wants to instigate bloodshed in Serbia andd that the counter-rallies organized by the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) to which the citizens are brought by force look funny and pitiful at the same time, and that they offend the citizens. Among other things, he also said: "The election theft was so obvious that it could be seen from the plane. The OSCE delegation got more than firm evidence about it. We are sure that they will recommend to Milosevic that the election results must be restored. The very moment Milosevic restores the real election results, we will be ready for a dialogue with him."

At today's protest rally in the city of Kragujevac, attended by more than 20,000 people, local leaders of the coalition Zajedno said that although the opposition had won in the municipal elections in Kragujevac, the local media [which include TV, Radio and a weekly newspaper] were taken over by the Socialist authorities. The local media suddenly became part of the state-run RTS network, which means that they remain under complete control of the ruling party. Leaders of Zajedno said that it was an illegal act and that Zajedno will try its best to change the current situation.

Western diplomatic sources claim that the fact-finding mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) which visited Belgrade over the last weekend has found that the local electoral results were in fact altered to the benefit of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), reports AFP. Sources close to the OSCE mission claim that it has concluded that the election results were re-tailored in 14 major cities in Serbia expressly to the disadvantage of the coalition Zajedno. Felipe Gonzalez, head of the OSCE mission to Belgrade, is expected to hand in his report to the OSCE chairman within a week. AFP reports that the members of the delegation are fully aware that the issue of elections is an internal affair of Serbia and that this report can be filed only as a recommendation. Other sources close to Gonzalez's team told AFP that the opposition parties in Serbia have been victims of a "juridical conspiracy." These sources claim that Gonzalez hopes the OSCE's task will extend from the issue at hand to helping further the democratic process in Serbia. They stress that Gonzalez took his mission as a defense of democratic principles rather than of the opposition itself, and that there is some indication the Serbian authorities are beginning to realize that they will have to introduce some changes.

American correspondents in Belgrade report about the impressive evidences of the electorial fraud (of November 17th) which were given for inspection to the delegation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). They also reported about certain democratic rights, such as the citizens' right to be objectively informed through free media about the events in the country and in the world. The American correspondents also remind the public that a little while ago Serbian President assured Cathy Marton and Lamberto Dini (Italian minister of foreign Affairs) that counter rallies would not be organized because of the danger of possible conflicts with the tens of thousands demonstrators, who daily protest in Belgrade.

Oppositional sources claim that the OSCE delegation has persuaded Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to hand over Belgrade and the cities in other parts of Serbia in exchange for the right to call the the new local elections at the beginning of next year, reports today's "Guardian". Diplomats fear that the short distance between the two opposed groups of demonstrators in Belgrade tomorrow could cause violence, although both the oppositional leaders and Slobodan Milosevic promised to prevent it, adds the "Guardian".

Several thousands of students of the University of Kragujevac protested today against the violation of the citizens' electoral will expressed at the recently held local elections in Serbia. The students acquainted the present Chancellor Radoslav Senic and the, allegedly, future Chancellor Slavica Djukic Dejanovic that there are more than twenty of them and that the number of the students who protest would increase until they resign their posts.

Around 20,000 citizens of Valjevo, supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition, participated today in the largest protest gathering in this town up to now. The protest march started at 17:30, after the pro-Milosevic rally organised by the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) had begun. Over 500 policemen guarded the SPS rally, which was attended by around 50 citizens of Valjevo, whereas the other participants had been bused from other places. During the SPS rally, clashes broke out between the citizens of Valjevo and those who came to the rally; the supporters of the SPS got he worse of it and the six buses which carried them to Valjevo were demolished. At the end of the SPS rally, which lasted less then half an hour, the supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition was held there and the members of the SPS from surrounding places had to attend it, in spite of their unwillingness to do so.

Around 5,000 citizens of Pirot gathered this evening at the protest rally of the "Zajedno" coalition against the annulment of the second round of local elections in Serbia. Momcilo Djuric, the spokesman of the "Zajedno" coalition for Pirot, informed the gathered citizens that the two delegates of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) in the Municipal Assembly abstained today from voting for new Mayor, and prevented in that way the electing of the members of the "Zajedno" coalition to the leading positions in Pirot. Ljuba Boncic, the representative of the "Zajedno" coalition from Bela Palanka, informed the gathered citizens that protest rallies against the violation of the will of the citizens will start on Wednesday.

The members of the United Branch Syndicate "Nezavisnost" from Kragujevac will not start for Belgrade tomorrow as planned. They are supposed to join the protest in front of Serbian Parliament, but they could not arrange for buses to carry them to belgrade since the transportation firm in Kragujevac had already prepared 40 buses for transporting the supporters of the Serbian Socialist Party to belgrade. Prvoslav Radosavljevic, the representative of the United branch Syndicate "Nezavisnost" in kragujevac, said that the members of the "Nezavisnost" will not give up their trip; they will travel to Belgrade by regular bus service or by their own cars.

Around 3,000 citizens of Sabac gathered today at the 23rd protest rally against the annulment of the second round of local elections in Serbia. The gathering went on in complete silence, in which way the citizens expressed their grief for the death of three youths of the University of Novi Sad, who died in a car accident the day before yesterday. They were returning from the "Zajedno" coalition rally in Belgrade when the accident occurred. Two more youths were seriously hurt. The independent syndicate of "Zorka" (factory of chemical products) in Sabac expressed today their full support for the Student Protest and for all previous activities of the independent syndicate in Serbia.

Around 1,000 students of Novi Sad University protested today against the annulment of the second round of local elections. The procession remained silent during the walk through the streets of Novi Sad, expressing the grief for their three colleagues who had lost their lives in a car accident near Novi Sad. A new protest gathering is scheduled for 16:00 tomorrow.

His Highness Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, the son of the last Yugoslav king and the heir to the throne, wished the Serbian people merry Christmass and the New Year's holidays, expressing his hope that 1997 will bring better days. Prince Aleksandar said that there are indications of better days. The splendid demonstrations taking place in belgrade and Whole Serbia, with the help of our brothers in Montenegro, are the evidences that the people of Serbia will not tolerate the self-will of the ruling party, said prince Aleksandar.

Several hundreds of Serbian emigres held a rally today in downtown Oakland, New Zealand, as an act of support to the anti-government protests in Serbia. They also read out their telegram of support to the protesters in Serbia. It begins: "Thank you for bringing back to us the hope of one day returning to our fatherland. Thank you, for the world has now realized there exists an other Serbia, worthy of admiration and respect." Several renowned Serbian-born New Zealanders addressed the rally and, to honor the events in Belgrade, the crowd then took a walk through the streets of downtown Oakland.

A statement by the Zajedno coalition said today that the management of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) has issued orders to all state-owned company managers to organize arrival of their employees to a rally in support of Slobodan Milosevic, scheduled to take place in Belgrade's Republic Square Tuesday, Dec. 24, at 3 p.m. As information continues to pour in from all over Serbia, Zajedno has learned that that all employees of state- owned companies have been threatened with summary dismissal if they fail to show up for the SPS rally. "Zajedno believes that every party has the right to organize its rallies. We want to know, however, the source of SPS funds for its rallies," said the statement. "The counter-rallies show not only that the SPS is spending public money but that it also wants to provoke clashes in Serbia by engendering hatred among Serbian people and chauvinistic feelings towards the rest of the world," concluded the statement. The SPS Information Service told some of the Belgrade media that the SPS is not -- categorically not -- organizing any rallies in Belgrade tomorrow.

In an interview published in today's issue of the German daily "Berliner Zeitung," Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party (DS), said: "His [Milosevic's] position is so weakened, the problems in the country have accumulated to such an extent, that he is left with only one choice: resignation." He also that the "Zajedno" coalition could accept the repetition of the local elections which have been disputed, reports the AFP. Djindjic added, however, that it would be possible only if the authorities guaranteed that they would recognize the results of the new elections and that they would allow equal access to the media. He stated that under such conditions the opposition would get even more votes.

The protest rallies organized in Belgrade by the "Zajedno" coalition are of political character and represent the social revolt with manifest liberal ideology system, announced the Institute for social research in Belgrade. According to the results of the research concerning the Protest 96 conducted by the Institute, the leaders of the opposition have taken the leadership of the protest, articulating the demands of the demonstrators successfully, but the protest is not due merely to the organization on the part of the oppositional parties.

The International Red Cross Committee anticipates that in 1997 its help will be needed most in Rwanda, Afghanistan and the countries formed in the region of former Yugoslavia, reads the appeal sent to the donating countries.

The counter-rallies organized by the ruling Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) deepens the division of the country into two irreconcilable groups, warns today's "Liberasion". In the article titled "The OSCE ascertained the fraud in Serbia" the "Liberasion" reports that the protest which has gathered hundreds of thousands of citizens was provoked by the nature of the regime - by its incapability to democratize." Citing the statement of Max Kapelman, a member of the OSCE delegation, that the evidences of the electorial fraud seem impressive, the newspaper concludes that after all the regime could finally acknowledge the victory of the opposition in larger Serbian cities.

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, like Ceaucescu, considers himself the rescuer and the national hero, and cannot accept the "Ingratitude" of his citizens, so he decided to annual the results of local elections, comments the independent "Romania Libera" today. The opposition has found out that the liberal option can have success,and it only remains to be seen whether Serbia will carry out the "teddy bear" or the "Romanian December" revolution on its way to democracy, writes the newspaper. The same newspaper states that people in Serbia have started looking for a new beginning and a new government; the proof of this tendency is the victory of the opposition at the local elections in a number of cities.

John Cornblum, the assistant of the American Secretary of state, held a press conference on Friday evening. When asked whether he believes that President Milosevic is in serious trouble and whether it will have positive or negative consequences for Bosnia, Cornblum answered that President Milosevic has been in serious trouble for some time. Cornblum visited Milosevic 15 or 16 times during this year and often told him that the fact that he did not behave in a democratic way and that his economic policy was unsuccessful and inadequate would not make his country successful, so he must effect democratization quickly.

The Italian media warn today of the danger of street clashes between the demonstrators of the opposition and the supporters of the regime, and add that the report of the OSCE delegation, which examined the facts concerning the annulment of local elections, could cause further clashes. "La Republica" (Italian daily newspaper) reports the assertions of the opposition that the authorities have been mobilizing all the supporters they can get, intending to carry them to Belgrade by more than 10,000 buses and by special trains. The aim of these arrangements, reports "La Republica", is to show the world that Belgrade squares and streets do not belong to the opposition only. This daily newspaper states that the general impression is that the international OSCE delegation will confirm that the victory of the opposition was stolen in 15 of the whole of 18 municipalities in which the elections took place on November 17th. "La Republica" cites the assertions of certain anonymous diplomats that Gonzalez will go further than the elections only in his report, and that he will propose the measures which will guarantee the political rights and help the establishment of the legal state in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The American national radio reports that Gonzalez will demand of Milosevic to recognize the results of the elections of November 17th in Belgrade and 13 other cities in Serbia. The radio supposes that Milosevic will accept that demand, but that he will call new elections soon after that. The same radio warns of the danger of organizing the counter-rallies in Serbia.

President of the "France Liberte" foundation and the wife of former French president Francois Mitterand, Danielle Mitterand stated that during her visit to Belgrade she met with representatives of the coalition Zajedno and the Student Protest '96. At the end of her visit to Belgrade, Mitterand said that she met with the leaders of the Serbian Renewal Movement and the Civil Alliance of Serbia, Vuk Draskovic and Vesna Pesic. "I also spoke with the students who informed me of their unavoidable demand - the recognition of the electoral results" she said. Francois Mitterand also said that she had no intention of meeting any representatives of the authorities. She added that the change of the authorities should be followed by the change in the public media.

The Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) today warned the public that the so called "counter-rally" of Milosevic's supporters, announced for tomorrow, may set off a train of events no one wants, especially violence. The counter-rally is scheduled to coincide with the usual protests of anti-Milosevic, opposition supporters, so it is uncertain what will happen if the two crowds collide. If this should happen, Milosevic bears complete responsibility for the situation, says the DSS in its statement today.

Veljko Stojiljkovic and Mihailo Milojevic, presidents of the Economic Councils of Serbia and Yugoslavia expressed today their disapproval of the protests of the opposition and stated that the protests are harmful both to the economy and the state as a whole. Stojiljkovic added that the street rallies make it impossible for the economy to function and hinder the communication and cooperation with the world.

Dusan Mihajlovic, the president of the New Democracy (ND) and Cedomir Mirkovic, the vice-president of the ND, refused to give statements for the Beta agency about the counter-rally in support of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, which has been announced for tomorrow in Belgrade. The New Democracy stated that its members are not against expressing the citizens' will in a peaceful and democratic way even in the streets, but that they have not taken part in the protests and that they will not do that in future either.

The political crisis in Serbia, which has been lasting a month now, gives some hope to the "forgotten victims" of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic - the Albanians at Kosovo, who, although in majority in that region, are ruled by the Serbs in a way "similar to apartheid", comments today's "New York Times" in the editorial. The "New York Times" states that Milosevic's successful career began at Kosovo, with an emotional speech. After he came into power, Milosevic started the ethnic cleansing of the Albanians. No matter who comes to rule in Serbia, Washington must insist that the sanctions will be lifted only after the conditions set by the USA, one of which is the respects of all the rights of Kosovo, are fulfilled, adds the "New York Times".

The counter-rally organized by the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) in Kraljevo today, lasted 15 minutes only. Less than 100 citizens of Kraljevo participated in the counter-rally, although many firms in the town obliged their employees to attend it. Other participants of the rally, mostly elderly people, were bused from other towns and from Kosovo. At the same time, the protest rally of the citizens and the supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition was held in Kraljevo. Around 200 policemen kept the two groups separated.

Around 3,000 citizens of Nis should arrive at the pro-Milosevic rally in Belgrade tomorrow, learn the press agencies from the Board of the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) in Nis. The members of the SPS are finishing the lists of their supporters who will be carried to Belgrade for free tomorrow. They will be transported either by buses ("Jugopetrol" oil refining company promised to provide 3.5 tons of oil) or by trains (a special train will leave from the railway station in Leskovac at 7:00 tomorrow).

Forty buses have been prepared in Kragujevac for carrying the supporters of the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) to Belgrade tomorrow, where they will participate in the counter-rally.

Momcilo Trajkovic, president of the Serbian Resistance Movement at Kosovo, appealed today to the Serbs at Kosovo and Metohija "not to allow Slobodan MIlosevic to manipulate them again". "if they cannot avoid going to the rally organized by the Serbian Socialist Party in Belgrade tomorrow, let them at least join the side which is struggling for freedom and democracy," said Trajkovic for the Beta agency. He added that the Serbs at Kosovo are pressurized to attend the counter-rally in Belgrade, that the lists are being made and people threatened with dismissal.

The Movement for Democratic Freedoms from Kragujevac sent today an open letter to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, demanding that the Kragujevac Television should be returned to the citizens. It is stated in the letter that a scandalous theft has been carried out in kragujevac recently - The RTS (Serbian National Radio-Television Network)has illegally come into the possession of the Kragujevac Radio-Television, the city newspaper and the publishing house.

In his statement for the Beta news agency, Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), said regarding the counter-rally of the Serbian Socialist Party that each party has the right to call the rallies at those places which it considers the most suitable for its political interests, but the antagonisms in the society have become so deep that it is not wise to settle them at street rallies.

Aleksandar Dinic, president of the City Board of the United Yugoslav Left (JUL), stated this evening that there are tendencies to exaggerate the electoral victories of the coalition Zajedno at the coalition rallies. The members and supporters of the JUL were invited to attend tomorrow's rally organized by the "kindred Socialist Party" at the meeting this evening, and join the Socialists in "supporting the defence of the sovereignty and the regularity of the elections in which the JUL took part".

The Yugoslav Left (JUL) announced today that meetings were held in all 188 municipalities in Serbia. "More than 150,000 people who attended these meetings" condemned the demonstrations of a part of the opposition and supported the policy of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

The sessions of the Municipal Boards of the Yugoslav Left (JUL) were held in all the municipalities of the Zlatibor county this evening. The current political situation in Serbia was discussed. According to Beta's sources, it was concluded at these sessions that the members of the JUL are not discouraged by their relative failure in the local elections. The members of the JUL will congratulate the governments of the municipalities in which the opposition won (Uzice, Pozega, Arilje and Bajina Basta) and demand that delegations of all parties meet in order to discuss calmly he problems which concern all the citizens. The Municipal Boards of the JUL sent telegrams of support to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. The Municipal Board of the JUL in Uzice called upon the members and the citizens to join the pro-Milosevic rally in Belgrade tomorrow.

Milomir Minic, president of the Citizen Council of Federal Parliament, said in Valjevo today that Serbia supports President Slobodan Milosevic because he had redeemed the dignity of the Serbs and effected the lifting of the sanctions. Minic was addressing around 2,000 citizens at the pro-Milosevic rally, who were guarded by the police forces, and only those who had the membership booklets of the SPS (Serbian Socialist Party) were admitted to the central square. At the same time, several thousands of the citizens and the supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition were protesting in the streets of Valjevo. They tried to break the cordon of the police and threw firecrackers at the participants of the counter-rally, but there were no serious incidents.

The rallies in support of "the policy of peace" of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic were held today in Kosovo Polje, Velika Plana, Petrovac na Mlavi, Kraljevo, Nova Varos, Valjevo and Crna Trava, reports the RTS (Serbian National Radio-Television Network) this evening.

The Information Center of Kosovo (KIC) communicates today that a number of Albanians employed in the public sector have been forced to attend the counter-rallies of the Serbs at Kosovo. The series of demonstrations organized by Serbian neo-communists can make the situation at Kosovo even worse, concludes the KIC.

The employees of the Executive Council of Vojvodina were threatened punishment unless they attended the rally in support of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic tomorrow, reports the "Nezavisni" (a weekly newspaper published in Novi Sad, relying on its sources in the provincial Government. The "Nezavisni" reminds that the president of the Executive Council of Vojvodina, Bosko Perosevic, is at the same time the head of the Provincial Board of the Serbian Socialist Party.

The farmers who mounted roadblocks throughout Vojvodina, Serbia's northern province, demand that all delivered farm produce be paid out to them with an interest rate on the delay period added to the original amount. The farmers are determined to let no one through except ambulances.

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