- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2000

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia Serbia’s democratic parties last night threatened to call thousands of protesters back into the streets after allies of ousted President Slobodan Milosevic refused to relinquish power.

Milosevic allies yesterday said they were reassuming control of the police and fighting efforts by Yugoslavia’s new President Vojislav Kostunica to purge the country’s military leadership.

Pro-democracy leader Zoran Djindjic dismissed the statements as “haggling and manipulations” by Serbia’s government, which remains in the hands of Milosevic supporters despite the change of power at the federal level.

Mr. Djindjic, who has emerged as a key figure in the new Yugoslav leadership, gave the Serbian government until tomorrow to set a date for new elections or the opposition would call its followers into the streets.

“If they reject this, we will call on the people to demand the elections,” Mr. Djindjic said, threatening a renewal of the popular revolt that ousted Mr. Milosevic.

More than 90 percent of Yugoslavs live in Serbia, which together with much smaller Montenegro makes up Yugoslavia. Whoever controls Serbia effectively controls Yugoslavia.

Also yesterday, U.S. diplomat William Dale Montgomery arrived in Belgrade, the first official visit to the Yugoslav capital by an American since relations were severed during NATO bombing last year. James C. O’Brien, the senior U.S. official overseeing Balkans developments, is expected this week.

“Our relationship was always wonderful with the Serbian people, and that relationship started to go downhill immediately when Milosevic came to power,” Mr. Montgomery said. “That time is over, so I have high hopes that that relationship can get back to normal.”

The threats yesterday by the Milosevic forces appeared more as a desperate attempt to regain the initiative and to try to reverse the purges and resignations after days of gains by pro-democracy forces around Mr. Kostunica.

Mr. Djindjic said the Serbian “government can declare itself not only legal but omnipotent, but it’s a fact of life they have no control over 80 percent of the processes in the country.”

The army’s resistance to replacing the pro-Milosevic leadership was more worrisome. Senior generals yesterday warned against the “negative consequences” of moves to purge top military echelons appointed by Mr. Milosevic.

After meeting with Mr. Kostunica, the army issued a statement cautioning against the “possible negative consequences of increased attacks and attempts to discredit certain individuals of the Yugoslav army.”

Mr. Djindjic said earlier that Mr. Kostunica wants to replace the army chief with a former general sacked by Mr. Milosevic.

The army statement means that a shake-up in the ranks will probably be delayed. But the army is unlikely to resist once all the other levers of power are controlled by Mr. Kostunica’s forces.

Serbia’s interior minister, who controlled the republic’s 100,000-member police force, resigned this week.

But a senior member of Mr. Milosevic’s Socialist Party, Branislav Ivkovic, said yesterday that Serbia’s pro-Milosevic Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic was taking direct control of that force.

Still, recent actions by the police indicate that the pro-Milosevic forces do not have full support of the police.

In last Thursday’s uprising, police used minimum force against crowds that stormed parliament to get Mr. Milosevic to concede he lost the Sept. 24 elections.

Belgrade media reported yesterday that four Serbian police generals assigned to the dreaded State Security Service had declared allegiance to Mr. Kostunica, and that the commander of police who defended the parliament building had resigned.

Late Tuesday, however, about 20 uniformed policemen detained three bodyguards of the pro-democracy leaders, according to the group’s spokesman, Cedomir Jovanovic.

Mr. Jovanovic said the three were released after a few hours. He called the action a “provocation.”

Elsewhere, lesser figures from the Milosevic era were giving up, some of them reportedly fleeing the country. Several officials of state companies resigned.

Yesterday, the independent trade union Nezavisnost fired the entire pro-Milosevic management of the country’s largest gold mine and smelter in eastern Yugoslavia.

The Milosevic appointees were replaced by independent ones close to Mr. Kostunica. The management of Zastava, the giant automaker, also was replaced.

The head of the Federal Electoral Commission, Borivoje Vukicevic, resigned his federal judgeship, the private Beta news agency reported. The commission sought to deny Mr. Kostunica victory in the election and called for a runoff.

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