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Serbia: Milosevic May Soon Move To End Crisis, Says Envoy

Belgrade, 29 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian first deputy foreign minister Igor Ivanov says Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic told him that he will soon announce proposals to end the political crisis caused by opposition charges of election fraud. Ivanov, who met Milosevic in Belgrade yesterday, told a news conference today that Milosevic's proposals will be made in keeping with a spirit of dialogue between the main political forces and in the interests of the country's future.

Ivanov said Milosevic told him there were other recommendations within a report by Europe's main security body, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), for ending the 10-week impasse over opposition demands that the government fully restore opposition wins in recent local elections.

The OSCE's main conclusion was that opposition victories should be reinstated immediately.

Ivanov, who also talked with opposition leaders on his fact-finding mission, said both sides agreed that use of force is no solution. Ivanov said his discussions gave room for hope that healthy reason will soon prevail and dialogue will be established.

Zajedno opposition leaders have rejected any talks with the government and pressed daily mass street protests in Belgrade and elsewhere. Some anti-government demonstrations have recently turned violent, with police beating demonstrators.

About 10,000 Belgrade students -- who also have been demanding recognition of election results -- staged another protest today, blocking the city's central Slavija Square to traffic. No police were on the streets when the protest got under way.

Meanwhile, opposition supporters and Serbia's ruling Socialists have both sworn in rival municipal governments in the town of Smederevska Palanka, 80 kilometers south of Belgrade.

Supporters of the opposition coalition Zajedno (Together) swore in their own town councillors in a street ceremony outside the town hall. Police prevented them from entering the town hall while the Socialists inside appointed town authorities loyal to the government of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

Zajedno swore in a municipal council based on the results of Smederevska Palanka's local elections in November, which gave the opposition a narrow majority. The Socialists inaugurated their own town council with a leftist majority based on a later court annullment of the opposition victory.

Shortly after both sides swore in their rival councils, riot police beat opposition supporters as they attempted to march through the center of the town. News reports say some 15 opposition supporters were injured, including an opposition member who had been elected to the town's council.