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Serbia: Police Charge Opposition Roadblocks

Belgrade, 23 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Police today clubbed opposition protestors to break up a blockade of roads leading into the central Serbian town of Kragujevac. The police action came as thousands of other opposition supporters continue to surround a television and radio station in the town center. Earlier today, police occupied the station to prevent newly-elected local authorities from taking over management of its facilities.

Unlike many other Serbian cities and towns, the government of President Slobodan Milosevic has allowed an opposition win in recent local elections in Kragujevac, about 150 kilometers south of Belgrade, to stand.

But police say Serbian state-ruled radio and TV has lodged a legal appeal and claim to be protecting the Kragujevac studios pending a court decision.

The town's mayor, Borivoje Radic, says thousands of opposition supporters have surrounded the building and tensions are extremely high. Speaking by telephone, Radic says opposition supporters had been blocking the studios since yesterday and are furious that police had moved in. Radic says the opposition is threatening to seal off the whole town, if the station is not handed over to the new opposition administration soon.

The station's newly appointed television director, Vidosav Stevanovic, says he and the town's newly elected mayor spent several hours overnight in the television building to try and prevent violence.

The newly-elected municipal authorities called on their supporters to block traffic in the town this afternoon and called for a large demonstration.

Control of the media is a central issue in the struggle between Milosevic and the opposition, who are continuing mass protests in Belgrade and elsewhere demanding the government fully restore annulled opposition victories in the November municipal polls.