- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia The party of Yugoslavia's president withdrew yesterday from the parliament of the nation's main republic, declaring Serbia's legislature invalid and creating the worst political crisis in the country since President Slobodan Milosevic's ouster.
All 45 deputies of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia walked out during a power struggle.
The deputy chief of Mr. Kostunica's party, Dragan Marsicanin, said that with the walkout of the deputies from the chamber, the Serbian parliament "no longer exists."
"This is a coup carried out without weapons," Mr. Marsicanin said. He was referring to a decision by anti-Kostunica lawmakers to fire all the pro-Kostunica lawmakers, prompting the walkout.
Zoran Djindjic, prime minister of Serbia, said Mr. Kostunica's allies were dismissed "to put some order in the country."
The move marked a deepening of the power struggle between Yugoslavia's two key politicians.
Mr. Kostunica, a centrist nationalist, and Mr. Djindjic, a pro-Western pragmatist, have been at loggerheads since jointly ousting Mr. Milosevic from power in October 2000.
Serbia and its tiny neighbor Montenegro make up what is left of Yugoslavia.
Removal of Mr. Kostunica's allies in Serbia's legislature would protect Mr. Djindjic from being ousted in a parliamentary vote.
Mr. Kostunica's party has criticized Mr. Djindjic's economic and political reforms, and has tilted toward Mr. Milosevic's neo-communists and ultra-nationalists in parliament. That left Mr. Djindjic's pro-democracy bloc with a slight majority in the 250-seat Serbian parliament.
Mr. Kostunica's deputies largely have boycotted parliamentary sessions, repeatedly preventing a quorum needed to act on reformist laws. That nearly blocked the assembly's work and threatened to bring new elections something Mr. Kostunica and Mr. Milosevic's allies were seeking.
Mr. Kostunica's party announced it would go ahead with "all forms of extraparliamentary political life," indicating street protests and strikes against Mr. Djindjic's government. That would further destabilize the country, already faced with deep economic and social problems. Mr. Milosevic's allies already were organizing some protests.

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