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Serbia: Protests Resume After Court Upholds Election Annulments

Belgrade, 10 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - More than 100,000 demonstrators returned to the streets of Belgrade today after the Yugoslav federal supreme court rejected an appeal by the opposition Zajedno (Together) coalition to be reinstated as victors of municipal elections in the Serbian capital. Correspondents say today's court ruling appears to exhaust all legal avenues open to Zajedno, which claimed victory in Belgrade and in other towns and cities following municipal elections last month.

Serbian authorities under President Slobodan Milosevic annuled the results and claimed victory after new elections -- boycotted by the opposition -- were held.

The opposition today boycotted the opening session of the federal Parliament, which was elected last month. The federal Parliament -- comprising members from Serbia and its smaller partner Montenegro -- is dominated by Milosevic's Socialists and the United Left party of his wife, Mirjana Markovic. Zajedno leader Zoran Djindjic said the boycott, which was supported by opposition deputies from Montenegro, will continue until the earlier municipal election results are restored.

The United States, France, and NATO today all criticized Milosevic for his government's handling of the municipal elections. NATO foreign ministers also praised the opposition for showing restraint.

The federal Interior Minister, Vykasin Jokanovic, promised that police will not stop anti-government protests -- now in their fourth week -- unless the demonstrators use force or attack public property.

Jokanovic made the pledge in an interview with the independent news agency Beta in Belgrade. It came on the 23rd day of what has become a daily ritual of mass protests agains the socialist rule of President Milosevic.

Protesting students said they had deposited a copy of Serbia's constitution at the republic's supreme court. One student leader told Reuters: "Today is World Human Rights Day and that is why we are reminding Serbia's supreme court of the law which they should respect."