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Serbia: Opposition To Seek Criminal Charges In Police Beatings

Belgrade, 7 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Political foes of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic today accused some of the president's closest associates of organizing police beatings of demonstrators. In a statement, the opposition coalition Zajedno (Together) said its lawyers would seek criminal charges against Interior Minister Zoran Sokolovic and his assistant Radovan Stojcic in connection with the beatings of demonstrators last month.

Meanwhile, opposition Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told German radio that Western pressure is probably the only effective influence on Milosevic. Djindjic called on Western governments to increase pressure on Milosevic to fully recognize recent opposition victories in local elections. Djindjic said the West should halt economic relations with Serbia unless Milosevic starts democratizing Serbia.

In Bonn, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel today told reporters that Germany has an economic lever which can be applied against Belgrade if necessary. Kinkel noted that Serbia relies heavily on an infrastructure and industry that is either German-made or based on German industrial standards.

He said this means Serbia continues to be reliant on Germany for things like spare parts. But Kinkel did not elaborate on how or if a trade lever would be used by Bonn. Kinkel today also hailed Serbia's opposition movement as deserving of "massive support."

In Romania today, President Emil Constantinescu urged Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to fully recognize opposition victories in recent local elections.

A statement from the president's office called on Serbian authorities to abide by the recommendations of a commission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE recommends that Milosevic validate the outcome of the disputed November polls.

Constantinescu's statement says that prolonging the crisis in Serbia would affect the democratic process there, as well as the country's return to the international community. Constantinescu said the sitution is having a negative effect on regional stability.

The Romanian president was a leading opposition figure in Bucharest before his election victory over former Communist Ion Iliescu last November

In Belgrade, opposition leaders told supporters not to demonstrate today, which is the Orthodox Christmas Day. Both student and Zajedno leaders said Christmas Day should be celebrated at home.

More than 200,000 people marked Orthodox Christmas Eve in Serbia last night by rallying in the streets of Belgrade against Milosevic.

Western correspondents described last night's crowd as the biggest yet in 50 consecutive days of protests against Milosevic's refusal to fully honor the results of local elections in November.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Slovania, the last Serb-held part of Croatia, an explosion today damaged a Catholic church in the town of Ilok. There were no reports of injuries and police are conducting an investigation.

Eastern Slavonia, captured by secessionist Serbs in 1991, is currently under U.N. administration and is due to return to Zagreb's control before January of next year.