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Serbia: Milosevic's Party Dismisses Opposition Protests

Belgrade, 21 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party today dismissed opposition protests over alleged election fraud. The state news agency Tanjug says the Socialists also accused opposition forces of "prematurely " declaring victory.

The opposition says it won clear majorities on councils in 44 towns and cities. But election authorities have only confirmed the opposition victory in Belgrade. The opposition say results are being cancelled and new votes scheduled in almost all other towns where they had won majorities.

Under Serbia's election laws, final results should have been announced by local electoral commissions by Tuesday evening.

Socialist spokesman Ivica Dacic today asked why opposition leaders were in such a hurry for the results to be proclaimed. Dacic said the Socialist party was "calmly awaiting the end of the electoral procedure," and that the results would reflect the will of voters.

The leader of the opposition coalition, Vuk Draskovic, has called for rallies today in Belgrade and other cities. Draskovic told thousands of supporters last night in Belgrade that they should seize town halls to defend their ballot victories. Socialist authorities bused in police in riot gear to several cities today, but there have been no reports of clashes.

Yesterday, the United States again expressed concern over fears of election manipulation in Serbia.