- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2000

Yugoslavia's opposition parties today planned to issue a call for a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience as President Slobodan Milosevic continues to defy growing demands at home and abroad that he step down.
Emerging for the first time in public since being bested by opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica in Sunday's presidential elections, Mr. Milosevic appeared on Serb state-owned television yesterday with members of his Socialist Party faction.
A Milosevic aide said the president was preparing for an Oct. 8 runoff election after official returns released yesterday found that Mr. Kostunica received 48.96 percent of the vote Sunday 11 percentage points better than Mr. Milosevic but just short of the absolute majority needed to win outright.
"The election process is going on in accordance with the law," said Nikola Sainovic, a leading member of Mr. Milosevic's party. "The Socialists respect the decisions of legal bodies."
Contending their own tallies gave Mr. Kostunica at least 52 percent of the vote, the umbrella Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) movement said yesterday it would not participate in a runoff and that Mr. Milosevic should step down immediately.
"We in Serbia must show that we can peacefully replace an usurper from a position that no longer belongs to him," DOS spokesman Zoran Djindjic said yesterday.
Mr. Djindjic said Kostunica supporters planned five days of protest followed by a general strike in a bid to force Mr. Milosevic to quit.
While Mr. Milosevic has survived opposition protests in the past, this time the calls issuing from Washington and other Western capitals for his resignation are being echoed by some of the president's own allies inside Serbia.
Just yesterday, the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Serbia's ultranationalist deputy prime minister, a popular Serb children's television performer, and the leaders of Serbia's sister republic of Montenegro all said Mr. Kostunica had won a first-round victory.
The church's Holy Synod, headed by Patriarch Pavle, called Mr. Kostunica, a little-known constitutional lawyer and longtime opposition politician, Serbia's "elected president" in a statement released to the press.
"The Holy Synod calls on Kostunica and all those elected with him to take control of the state, its parliament, and its municipalities in a peaceful and dignified way," the influential church said in a statement released in Belgrade.
Bernard Kouchner, who heads the U.N. mission administering the Serbian province of Kosovo, said in Washington yesterday that "things seem to be going in a very good direction in Yugoslavia."
Mr. Kouchner said he did not discount the possibility that Mr. Milosevic, who faces international war crimes charges over his campaign in Kosovo last year, might lash out rather than surrender power peacefully.
Meanwhile, President Clinton and leaders of the European Union tried to keep up the pressure. Mr. Clinton repeated yesterday that the United States was essentially prepared to lift economic and diplomatic sanctions on Yugoslavia after Mr. Milosevic is gone.
"From my point of view they had an election, and it's clear that the people prefer the opposition," Mr. Clinton said.
Virtually the only break in the international condemnation came from Russia, a traditional ally of Yugoslavia.
"Russia will not exert pressure on anyone in Yugoslavia," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said after a meeting in the Kremlin with visiting French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine.
Mr. Milosevic's determination to proceed to a second round presents a dilemma for the opposition. DOS leaders and their Western supporters so far have insisted that a second round would legitimize a fraudulent vote and shouldn't even be conducted.
"There is no basis for a runoff," State Department spokesman Philip T. Reeker said.
But several analysts said it might be better for Mr. Kostunica to participate in the second round, one that, based on Sunday's elections, he would win handily.
"Milosevic has a lot more rabbits and a lot more hats than many people now give him credit for," said Janusz Bugajski, director of East European studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
This article was based in part on wires service reports.

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