- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2000

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia Key remnants of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime crumbled yesterday after Yugoslavia’s prime minister and the country’s most powerful police chief resigned. Early elections were set for the Serbian parliament, a last bastion of the old order.

As the vestiges of the old regime were being cleared away, the European Union lifted an oil embargo and other sanctions against Yugoslavia and offered it $2 billion in aid to help rebuild the country.

The decision marked a turning point in Yugoslavia’s relations with the rest of Europe and was seen as a first step toward integrating the country into the European mainstream.

The United States, which has its own sanctions in place against Yugoslavia, also has promised to roll them back but it has yet not moved to do so. Administration officials say they first want to make sure Mr. Milosevic has no role in the new government.

Riding the wave of public support that brought him to power, President Vojislav Kostunica moved swiftly to drive out remaining Milosevic stalwarts. The government in Serbia, the main Yugoslav republic, was expected to be dissolved today.

Just two days after formally taking office, Mr. Kostunica was also putting his supporters in charge of the country’s most important institutions, including the police, judiciary, banks and state-run companies.

A key Kostunica aide, Zoran Djindjic, signaled the new government’s desire for closer ties to Washington after an election campaign in which the opposition sought to distance itself from the United States because of public anger over last year’s NATO bombing campaign.

“Without a strategic partnership with America, there is no solution for the Serbian national interests,” Mr. Djindjic said.

Mr. Milosevic, who has been holed up at one of the president’s official residences in a Belgrade suburb, remained out of public view yesterday.

But two of his key allies, federal Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic and Serbian Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic who controlled about 100,000 policemen both stepped down.

All major Serbian parties agreed to early parliamentary elections in December a move that could spell the end of Milosevic supporters’ control of the republic’s government and legislature. Given the current popular support for Mr. Kostunica, his allies are likely to win a strong majority in the new parliament.

Serbia is home to more than 90 percent of Yugoslavs, and whoever rules it holds the balance of authority in the country, which includes one other republic, Montenegro. If the current Serbian government and the parliament remain in place, they could block many pro-democracy reforms pushed by Mr. Kostunica on the federal level.

Serbia’s president and parliament are elected separately from federal posts, and were not involved in the contentious federal vote Sept. 24. Serbian President Milan Milutinovic and other Serbian government leaders were elected in 1998 to four-year terms.

Still, Mr. Milosevic’s hard-line allies in the Serbian parliament were trying to keep the current legislature in place until the new elections, despite calls for its immediate dissolution.

“This is a highway robbery,” said Vojislav Seselj, Serbia’s ultranationalist deputy prime minister, who has been allied with Mr. Milosevic. “You will not get our blessing for a coup,” he said, referring to alleged forceful removal of Mr. Milosevic’s cronies from all major state institutions.

Mr. Seselj accused pro-democracy forces of using “lynching methods” to force out rivals. Mr. Seselj, for the first time, acknowledged that Serbia’s parliament had lost control of the republic’s police to pro-Kostunica forces.

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