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Yugoslavia: Tens Of Thousands Protest In Belgrade


Belgrade, 19 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - The weather was on the side of the Serbian opposition again today, as tens of thousands of Belgrade citizens turned out for the 30th straight day of protests against the regime of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

Unseasonably warm and sunny weather has boosted attendance at the peaceful street demonstrations, which demand the reinstatement of victories by the Zajedno (Together) opposition coalition in November 17 municipal elections that were annulled by Milosevic.

Our correspondent says there is a carnival-like atmosphere at the demonstrations, with marchers carrying flags and balloons and blowing whistles. Those attending range from babies in strollers to men and women in their 70s.

Our correspondent also says street vendors are capitalizing on the enormous gatherings to sell protest buttons, T-shirts and post cards with Zajedno slogans as well as completely unrelated merchandise such as ties and calendars.

Meanwhile a mission from the Organization For Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), headed by former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, is expected to arrive in Belgrade tomorrow to review the situation, which has driven tens of thousands into the streets.

More than 20,000 students marched through Belgrade again today in the fifth week of demonstrations as some 3,000 pro-Milosevic supporters briefly rallied in Krusevac, some 150 kilometers southeast of Belgrade. They carried banners criticizing the United States and Germany. Most were reportedly bused from their factories during working hours.

Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic reportedly told a Belgrade news conference that Serbian authorities were prepared to consider holding new elections. Our correspondent says Milutinovic's statement was filled with conditions and appears aimed at heading off OSCE intervention. The opposition has said it will not agree to any election re-run.
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