Milosevic threatens crackdown on opponents as strikes spread
publiziert: Mittwoch, 4. Okt 2000 / 14:03 Uhr

Belgrade - President Slobodan Milosevic's police arrested several truck drivers Wednesday as they attempted to clear anti-Milosevic blockades on key roads, while opponents appealed to Yugoslavia's highest court to grant them victory in presidential elections.

1 Meldung im Zusammenhang
The court hearing opened as the opposition coalition threatened to unilaterally inaugurate challenger Vojislav Kostunica as the new president. Aides to Milosevic, who reject opposition claims that Kostunica won the presidency outright in Sept. 24 elections, accused Kostunica's backers of rigging the vote.

The opposition "committed electoral fraud" and was not trying to provoke violence by "discrediting and denying the validity of the result," said Information Minister Goran Matic.

Yugoslavia's Constitutional Court met in emergency session to hear claims by the 18-party opposition coalition that Milosevic's cronies manipulated election results by using a sophisticated software program.
Opposition leaders said they had obtained a copy of the program and would use it to illustrate how the vote was rigged to favor Milosevic's candidacy. But the court is full of Milosevic loyalists, which has led to a number of controversial verdicts
With dozens of road blocks in place for the third day as part of the opposition's campaign of anti-Milosevic civil disobedience, police attempted to clear roads in some areas but refrained from using force, the private Beta news agency reported.
But near Pozarevac, Milosevic's home town, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Belgrade, tensions grew after police arrested several truckers whose vehicles were blocking a road. Dozens of people subsequently sat down on the pavement, strengthening the blockade.
There were further signs that Milosevic's control over the media, until now the principal propaganda pillar of his regime, was fraying.
The main state-run daily in the northern province of Vojvodina declared Wednesday that its editorial policy would switch from blindly following the government line to objectively reporting on events.

Hundreds of stores were closed and city bus drivers and garbage collectors stayed off the job, leaving overflowing trash containers scattered in the streets. Even Belgrade's telephone directory assistance stopped work Wednesday.

The postal service announced a warning strike for later in the day, and by noon, the city core was effectively put off limits to cars and other vehicles by thousands of pedestrians roaming the streets and blocking traffic.
On Tuesday, Belgrade's prosecutor issued arrest orders for 13 opposition leaders involved in organizing a walkout at the Kolubara coal mine _ the largest of hundreds of work stoppages nationwide meant to force the president from office.

The announcement was preceded by a government warning of "special measures" against those responsible for the growing wave of strikes and blockades called to force Milosevic to accept defeat in Sept. 24 elections.

The moves raise fears that Milosevic may resort to force to hold on to power, despite rising calls at home and abroad for him to step down in favor of Kostunica. They also raise the potential for clashes ahead of a planned opposition rally in Belgrade on Thursday billed as a final push to drive Milosevic from power.
Milosevic acknowledges Kostunica won more votes in the five-candidate contest but insists he fell short of the required majority and has called a run-off for Sunday. The opposition claim Kostunica won the election outright and refuse to participate in the run-off, claiming the Yugoslav president would only cheat again.

In an interview published in Moscow's Komersant daily, Kostunica said he believed Milosevic was preparing to resort to force.
"He experiences no moral dilemma or torments of the soul about that," Kostunica said in comments published Wednesday. "However ... it is clear that he does not have enough force at present."
The student-run Otpor, or Resistance, opposition movement demanded that Kostunica be declared the electoral winner, that he assume command of the armed forces and start naming ambassadors to Western countries which have recognized his victory.

"We demand that Kostunica take up his post as president by Thursday in accordance with the will of the voters," the Otpor statement said.

And Milan Protic, an opposition leader who spent the night at the Kolubara mine, told strikers that the opposition coalition planned to declare Kostunica president if Milosevic runs a second round of voting alone.

Radio reports said Protic announced that municipalities throughout Serbia, where the anti-Milosevic grouping won a sweeping victory in local elections, would unite and jointly declare their administrative independence from Belgrade. He said they would start a "wide-scale diplomatic action" to secure international recognition.
Over the past week, anti-Milosevic strikes, road blocks and other forms of civil unrest have gripped much of Serbia, the main Yugoslav republic and the main stage of confrontation between Milosevic and his opponents.

Outside the southern city of Nis, police prevented dozens of trucks from closing down the main north-south highway. In Krusevac, two roadblocks were lifted, Beta said.

Roadblocks around the central town of Cacak, where almost all shops were shut, remained impenetrable Wednesday. Hundreds of people flocked to the barricades overnight to help reinforce the truckers.

The strike at Kolubara went into its fifth day Wednesday. After the strikers refused to bend to a demand from the army's chief of staff, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, to return to work, the government introduced four-hour power cuts to opposition-controlled cities, blaming the strikers for a shortage of coal.

(AP)

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