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Western Press Review: The Pressure On Serbia's Milosevic Grows

  • Charles Recknagel

Prague, 3 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Press commentary today focuses on recent developments in Serbia. Some analysts call for greater world support for Serbia's opposition Zajedno (Together) coalition. Others weigh the significance of the endorsement given to Zajedno yesterday by the Serbian Orthodox Church.

KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS: The West should tell Milosevic he will remain a pariah unless election results are reinstated

Trudy Rubin, writing for the U.S. Knight Ridder Newspapers, says the world must offer help to Serb opposition leaders. She says: "If anyone deserves our best New Year's wishes, it's the tens of thousands of anti-government protesters on the streets of Belgrade." But she notes that only recently have Serb opposition leaders gotten Western support for their demands, and urges Western leaders to do much more.

Rubin's editorial continues: "The Clinton team should shed its ambivalence about abetting Milosevic's downfall. This Balkan Machiavelli helped Washington orchestrate the Dayton accords in order to get back into the world's good graces, but he has done little to make peace work." She concludes: "Western leaders should make clear to Milosevic that he will remain an international pariah -- meaning no loans -- unless election results are reinstated, and unless Serbia meets European norms on free media and speech. Then Western capitals should start issuing invitations to Serb opposition leaders."

WASHINGTON POST: Milosevic has outlived his usefulness

The paper also calls for international support for Serbia's opposition. In an editorial yesterday, the paper says that "the most urgent project in Europe in the new year is to ensure the people of Serbia the leadership of their democratic choice." The editorial continues: "This result would not just bring relief to the 10 million people who live under President Slobodan Milosevic in what has been called the last totalitarian regime on the continent. The example and policy of democracy in Serbia also would open the surest and shortest road -- if still a steep and rocky one -- to resolving tensions throughout the former Yugoslavia as a whole."

The paper says that Milosevic has outlived his usefulness as a belated peacemaker in the Balkans. It writes: "For the first year of the Dayton peace accords, international attention centered on Bosnia (and) this helped Milosevic, who sold himself to the anxious West as essential to delivering the Bosnian Serbs to the agreed settlement." The paper concludes: "Now things are different. He seems either unable or unwilling to work further on Bosnia. His priority is his own increasingly perilous situation at home. In that role, however, he must answer sooner or later to a public that knows him as a leader who failed in his reckless goal of creating a 'Greater Serbia' and left his country broken and bereft, isolated and in disrespect everywhere."

LONDON TIMES: Serbia holds the key to stability in the Balkans

Analyst Misha Glenny endorses the Serbian opposition in a commentary in today's edition. He says that some Western diplomats fear Milosevic's fall might trigger another round of Balkan chaos. But he argues that long-term gains from supporting the growth of democracy in the region could far outweigh such risks.

Glenny writes: "There is no absolute guarantee that the opposition will contribute to peaceful solutions in Bosnia or in Kosovo." But, he continues, "Serbia still holds the key to stability in the Balkans and the devolution of power away from Mr. Milosevic's Socialist Party and the uncompromising neo-Communists led by his wife, Mirjana Markovic, would represent a tremendous encouragement to other democrats in the region." Glenny concludes: "It is not just Serbia which groans under autocracy -- in varying degrees, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, and Bulgaria suffer under arbitrary rule of political and economic mafias. If their grip is not loosened, the Balkans will be left behind as the new millennium approaches."

LIBERATION: Government repression is not the Serbian Church's only motivation in coming out against the regime

The French paper today analyzes why the Serbian Orthodox Church chose to throw its support yesterday behind Zajedno, after what the paper calls the Church's years of "close but difficult" ties to Milosevic's government. Correspondent Helene Despic-Popovic writes from Belgrade that "the (government's) repression of the protestors and the spilling of blood led the Church to speak out on what it considers a moral question." But, she says, "that is certainly not the Church's only motivation" (since) during bloodier anti-government demonstrations in 1991 "the patriarchy remained equivocal."

She continues: "This time the Church is bringing out a whole series of grievances against the regime." She writes that the Church is disappointed with Milosevic for not "breaking with Communism and restoring the Church to its (traditional) choice position in Serbian society." She says the Church's communique yesterday also "does not fail to recall (what it considers) his betrayal of the Western Serbian regions -- that is, the Krajina and Bosnian Serbs" whom the Church embraced during their wars of secession. Despic-Popovic concludes that the Church's decision now to abandon Milosevic will certainly weaken the government, which "appears more and more isolated after the Yugoslav Army recently refused to act as an arbitrator in the crisis."

LE FIGARO: Having now lost the priests, Milosevic is more isolated

Looking at the Serbian Orthodox Church's action yesterday, a news analysis in the French paper says that "hardly a day passes without some new blow to the regime of President Milosevic." Renaud Giraud writes from Belgrade: "By its vitriolic attack (on Milosevic) the Orthodox Church opportunely, if a bit belatedly... has taken up the grievances of the majority of the (opposition) protestors: that nine years of Milosevic's semi-despotism have not even proved effective."

Giraud notes: "The Serbs have politically lost their war (for a Greater Serbia), now live in a reduced territory, and have an economy (clearly) worsened by the collapse of Tito's Yugoslavia and three and-a-half years of international sanctions." He continues: "Never before has the Church been so severe with Milosevic's regime, which until now it has spared in the name of patriotism." Giraud concludes: "Having lost the intellectuals, the students, the middle class, the independent trade union workers, and now the priests, the President of Serbia is decidedly a man more and more isolated, not only on the international stage but also in his own country."