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Serbia: Greek Minister Meets Milosevic In Attempt To Defuse Crisis

Belgrade, 12 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos met today with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in an effort to defuse Serbia's political crisis over the annulment of opposition wins in local elections.

There was no comment from either side after the talks ended in Belgrade. Pangalos began a meeting shortly after with leaders of the Zajedno (Together) opposition movement. Zajedno plans to continue its mass protests against the annulments later today in the Serbian capital.

Pangalos earlier told reporters he is trying to find a way to "promote normal democratic life in Serbia." Greece has traditionally been considered an ally of Serbia.

Zajedno's victories in 14 of Serbia's 18 largest cities were canceled by authorities in November over alleged irregularities. An investigation by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe declared the election results valid.

Meanwhile, Belgrade Mayor Nebojsa Covic -- a senior member of the ruling Socialist party -- is telling local media that he is ready to give up his job since the real results of the elections have not been respected.

He told students they are right to demand respect for the results, a free press and the dismissal of those responsible for electoral fraud. He said he cannot convene a new municipal assembly whose membership "has been contested for almost two months in the streets of Belgrade by thousands of students and citizens."

Yesterday, tens of thousands of demonstrators turned out, again calling for the restoration of opposition victories in November 17 municipal elections. Authorities annulled apparent opposition wins in Belgrade and in 13 other towns and cities. In recent days, authorities have conceded some of the opposition wins, including in Serbia's second largest city, Nis.

A sign of possible new concessions came yesterday when student leaders met with deputy prime ministers Ratko Markovic and Nedeljko Sipovac. The two agreed to sign a joint statement with the students saying the government would "respect the election results and the will of the people." They also agreed to order the Justice Ministry to demand that competent state bodies establish final election results "as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, one of the leaders of the opposition Zajedno (Together) coalition, Vuk Draskovic, yesterday ruled out any coalition with the country's Socialist leaders. The comment followed a claim by Zajedno's deputy chairman, Mirodrag Perisic, that Socialist leaders had "unofficially" suggested a coalition government. Perisic said the suggestion was made without Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's approval. Perisic's claim could not be independently confirmed.