News for December 29th, 1996

Military officers from Nis, Vranje, Pirot, Zajecar, Urosevac, Pristina and the airborne brigade stationed in Nis sent an open letter to President Milosevic today, calling on him to exercise some "presidential dignity and sensibility, as one most responsible for Serbia and its people," and to side with the interests of the Serbian people as they, the officers, have resolved to do. Copies of the open letter have been sent to the students of the University of Nis as well as to Momcilo Perisic, commander-in- chief at the FRY Army Headquarters. The letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the coalition Zajedno Information Center, warns Milosevic that "this is the last chance to save the country from a disaster."

Dozens of thousands of Belgraders gathered for their 40th straight protest in the capital's Republic Square today at subfreezing temperatures. After the usual address by the Zajedno leaders, the demonstrators went for a walkabout despite the ban and the heavy presence of police forces. Opposition demonstrators divided into two columns and walked up and down Knez Mihajlova Street (a pedestrian zone, closed to traffic), one side cheering "We love you" and the other replying "I love you too!," in a sardonic spoof of the Serbian President and his sympathizers' "love-in" at Milosevic's December 24 counter-rally.

The coalition Zajedno stated today that massive police forces have been engaged in all major Serbian cities in order to prevent protest marches of the citizens. Zajedno also said that President Milosevic has obviously decided to declare police rule in the country, but the question that remains is how many policemen it will take to keep all the people down. Meanwhile, the police officially banned protest rallies in the city of Smederevo, where the local Chief of the Police said that "it's over with the rallies."

The police prohibited the organization of the today's protest meeting of the "Zajedno" coalition, which was to take place on the central town square in Smederevska Palanka, the coalition's representatives in this town report. The coalition also says that although the 30th meeting of "Zajedno" was legally reported, they received the announcement from the police, containing the ban, and no explanation for this was given, not even in the spoken form.

The coalition Zajedno has invited Belgraders to join in the celebration of the New Year's Eve in the capital's Republic Square. Zajedno will organize various programs, beginning with a fancy-dress party for children, followed by a New Year's protest march under the auspices of the Student Protest '96, and ending in New Year's a party in which many of Belgrade's top actors and musicians will take part.

Defying a strong police blockade, some ten thousand students of UofB succeeded today in holding their 37th protest march. Sending their message to the police, "We shall be ubiquitous," the students formed a number of columns heading in different directions so that the dumbfounded police had to play hide and seek with them for a while. No incidents occurred, however.

A statement by the Serbian Ministry of Justice said today that the decision the Nis Electoral Commission made almost 2 months after the elections to hold runoffs in some polling stations in Nis is inappropriate. The ministry stressed that the outcome, whatever it might be, cannot reverse the order by Serbian President Milosevic to establish the truth concerning the Nis electoral minutes, the copies of which students of UofN had submitted to him earlier this month. A ruling on the minutes is expected also to establish the truth about the local electoral results in Nis.

The health condition of Ivica Lazovic, who was severely injured during the demonstrations on Tuesday, has improved to a certain extent. However, his life is still in danger, said Dr. Branko Djurovic, the Chief medical officer of Belgrade's Trauma Center in his statement for Radio B92 today.

Students of the UofN went for their 39th straight protest march carrying shooting targets on their heads to protest the authorities' attempt to provoke unrest in Belgrade. UofN students are protesting the recent events on Belgrade, where the authorities have been trying to suppress the opposition demonstrations by the use of police brutality and attacks on the citizens participating in Belgrade's peaceful campaign of civil disobedience.

Mainly silent on the current crisis in Serbia, the US Administration said during the weekend that the ball was now in Milosevic's court, reports for FoNet Slobodan Pavlovic. Unofficially, the Belgrade authorities have been given the next few days to find a way to put into effect the OSCE recommendations made public last Friday. The US Administration has already warned Milosevic that he faces renewed international isolation if he fails to allow the elected opposition representatives to assume their offices in the local governing bodies, as well as to open up a dialogue with the democratic opposition and free the media before the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in Serbia.

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic should recognize the opposition victory in the local elections in the major cities if he wants Serbia to become once again a part of Europe, said Swedish Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm Wallen. She stressed that Milosevic should not ignore the OSCE's report confirming this victory, for it was he who had invited the OSCE mission to Belgrade, reports AFP.

38 opposition representatives have shut themselves in the City Assembly building in Zrenjanin, protesting the SPS actions which have prevented them from taking office in this city. These newly elected city officials were denied entrance to the building the day after they had been voted in; they were to attend the inaugural session of the newly constituted municipal body. In their next attempt on December 27, the 38 managed to get in and will remain inside the building until they are sworn into office.

Zoran Petrovic, a freelance journalist, has informed the Democratic Party that paramilitary forces of the Yugoslav Left (JUL) stand behind the beating of the citizens on December 27, says today's issue of the newspaper "Demokratija." These forces constitute a private police force and are manned by individuals recruited from the companies which are under direct influence and protection of the Yugoslav Left, a political party led by Mira Markovic, wife of President Milosevic.

The Association of Film Artists of Serbia protests severely today against their member, film and movie cameraman Djordje Nikolic, being beaten and against the crashing of his camera by the police.

The representatives of the Italian peace organization ARCI from Padova expressed their solidarity with the members of the United City Syndicate "Nezavisnost", Rade Radovanovic and Branko Vukotic, who were hurt on Friday during the attacks of policemen in civilian dress. The representatives of this agency, who are presently visiting Serbia, expressed their support to "students, citizens and workers in Serbia" as well, who are, as quoted, "fighting for democracy, pluralism and peace."

In an interview to the Thessalonike daily "Angelioforos" Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, speaking in the name of the coalition Zajedno, said they are not satisfied with the position of the Greek government towards Slobodan Milosevic and his actions, reports for FoNet Slobodan Markovic. Draskovic urged the Greek government to condemn Milosevic's dictatorial regime.

Chairman of the Serbian Parliament Dragan Tomic said in his statement today that the OSCE's report on the local electoral results in Serbia has a preliminary character and that it could be taken both as an information document and a as recommendation. In his opinion, OSCE can in no way function as an arbiter since, he underlined, even the head of the OSCE mission Felipe Gonzalez has confirmed its purely advisory role. According to Tomic, the report carries three key points: that the electoral law of Yugoslavia, i.e. Serbia, corresponds to the OSCE principles, that the left coalition's victory in the elections is undisputed, and that the opposition parties won majority in a few cities and several municipalities.

Radovan Raka Radovic, member of parliament from the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) "invited the OSCE to be a neutral jury which is to decide whether someone is guilty or not". While speaking about the actions of the special police forces during the last few days in Belgrade, Radovic said: "I don't think that they were even beaten as much as two percent. I am opposed to beatings, but if someone goes too far, crosses the line and never leaves the streets, I would investigate who those people are, on a sample of a thousand people." Radovic also spoke about the shooting of Ivica Lazovic on December 24th in Belgrade, stating that "the man who wounded him fired two shots in the air, while the third shot was in self-defence."

Speaking to the Belgraders gathered for their 40th straight protest today, SPO leader Vuk Draskovic said that according to the data in the hands of the Zajedno coalition, Predrag Starcevic, the victim of the November 24 clashes, was killed by the police.

Draskovic accused the leader of the Yugoslav United Left (JUL), Mira Markovic, wife of Slobodan Milosevic, of calling for the Friday beatings. He added that Zajedno has learned from sources inside the ruling Socialist Party itself that JUL, Mira Markovic's party, is pressing for a state of emergency in the country. He announced that Zajedno will return all the seats it won in the last elections if the regime does not acknowledge November 17 local electoral results. If Milosevic does agree to ratify all of the opposition's legitimate victories, however, the coalition Zajedno will agree to a dialogue with Milosevic, said Draskovic.

DS leader Zoran Djindjic said that Milosevic has this Friday as the deadline to respond to the OSCE recommendations, and that if he fails to do so, the international pressure on him will be stepped up. Opposition leaders announced that they possess records of conversations and photographs of all those who participated in the December 27 attacks on citizens and journalists on Terazije Square. The opposition is extremely critical of the special police forces in Belgrade and Novi Sad, in particular, since many members of these police units refused to step in and prevent the unprovoked assaults on numerous Belgraders, most of whom were on their way home when the beatings took place.

In his New Year's message to Yugoslav citizens, President of FR Yugoslavia Zoran Lilic said today that now is not the time to impose personal and group interests on the general national and state interests, and these, the message said, are peace, economic recovery, development of democracy, the defense of a law-abiding state and human rights, and equality with the other states in the region and the international community as a whole. The letter also carries assurances that no individual is more important than the will of the people. It pinpoints dialogue and political discussion as the only way to further democracy in Serbia.

The entire cast of the National Theater refused to appear for the scheduled performance of the play "Zivot je san" [Life is a Dream] tonight, in protest against the presence of massive police forces on the streets of Belgrade. The coalition Zajedno Information Center reports this is the 8th performance to be canceled in this theater for the same reason.

Mirjana Karanovic, renowned Belgrade actress, telephoned Radio B92 last night in order to inform them on the protest walk which was carried out after the conclusion of the play "Bure baruta" in the Yugoslav Drama Theater. "Approximately twenty, mostly young actors play in this piece. Instead of making a bow at the end, we started walking around. The audience stood up from their seats, climbed the stage, and we walked, whistled, and shouted familiar protest slogans for about a half an hour", Mirjana Karanovic declared, thus informing the public about the new way of protesting in Belgrade.

NIN, a weekly journal published in Belgrade, suggests in its latest issue an alteration of the Criminal Procedures Law, for the purpose of keeping "the police from torturing those arrested or taken into custody".

The Chinese agency Hsinhua, whose attitude towards the events in Serbia has so far been very reserved, published today, and in a large part, the warning the French government made to the Yugoslav and Serbian government, in which it is requested that the confrontation with the opposition be avoided and that "without delay" the electoral victory of the opposition in 14 towns be acknowledged, reports Aleksandar Novacic, correspondent for FoNet.

The anti-democrats in Croatia are losing their alibi thanks to the democratization of Serbia, because everyone would seem democratic compared to the Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, writes "Novi list" from Rijeka. The magazine raises the issue of whether "the Croatian leaders will give Milosevic a friendly hand at a time when the whole world is turning its back on him".

Ostoja Knezevic, the founder of the literary award "Petar Kocic", handed part of the award, 20.000 dinars, which was renounced by this year's recipient Dobrica Cosic, to the children's home "Rade Vranjesevic" in Banjaluka.

A meeting named "Why I participate in the demonstrations" will be held in the Association of Serbian Writers (UKS), Friday night, it was announced today from the UKS. Among those expressing their opinions and points of view will be Slobodan Rakitic, Nikola Milosevic, Vida Ognjenovic, Dragoslav Mihailovic, Ljubomir Simovic, Predrag Palavestra, Pavle Zoric, Dusan Kovacevic, Djordjije Vukovic, Adam Puslojic, Moma Dimic and Ratko Adamovic.

Ivan Djuric, former professor of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, requested a public apology from the state controlled radio and television of Serbia (RTS) because he was "libeled on RTS prime time news on December 27th, by their statement that he (Djuric) at one time demanded that the western powers bomb Belgrade". Djuric, presently living and working in Paris, is the president of the Democratic Rights Movement.

A protest meeting, regarding the annulment of the results of the local elections, was held today in Sabac, with the presence of more than 1000 citizens.

Zoran Djindjic, President of the Democratic Party, estimated today that the discontent of the people surrounding the President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic is a timed bomb right in the foundations of his rule.

A small group of supporters of the association "The live ring", which is of a democratic orientation, reappeared today in front of the Yugoslav embassy in Moscow, where its members have demonstrated a few times in the last ten days, exclaiming slogans condemning the Serbian authorities for annulling the electoral results from November 17th.

The protest rally against the annulment of the electoral results was held in Prokuplje tonight, but the police prevented the demonstrators from walking the city streets.

More than a thousand people gathered today in Jagodina, on the 38th day of the protest against the annulment of the local elections' results. Rallies of the citizens will, as of tonight, be conducted only in the town center, because gathering in front of the Assembly building is prohibited.

The 20th protest gathering, in connection with the results of the local elections took place in Bor tonight, but intense police forces thwarted the peaceful walk through the town.

The "Zajedno" coalition gives out a warning in its today's announcement that the President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic is trying to introduce the government of the police in the country, since large quantities of police forces are represented in the streets, hindering the citizens in their attempts to express their protest by walking.

Powerful police forces prevented 500 citizens of Leskovac from walking through their town tonight after their protest rally. Demonstrators found themselves surrounded by a cordon consisted of approximately 80 policemen, with shields and helmets, and they were, in the same number, present in all access ways to the plateau in the center of town. No incidents were reported.

The President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic could soon be heard in connection with the present situation in the country, "Nasa Borba" writes in its tomorrow's issue, referring to sources near to Serbian authorities. The newspaper cites that Momir Bulatovic, President of Montenegro, and Dusan Mihailovic, leader of "New Democracy" demanded from Milosevic to speak out about the situation in Serbia.

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