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Serbia: Milosevic Invites OSCE To Verify Elections

Belgrade, 16 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on Friday offered to let international observers check the fairness of elections that prompted Western condemnation after opposition parties claimed the vote was rigged.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) welcomed a request from rump Yugoslavia but warned it could not verify the November local elections.

Instead, OSCE chief spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the group could meet all the parties and suggest ways for getting out of the crisis.

Hours later, the opposition Zajedno (Together) coalition and Belgrade students staged the biggest protest in Belgrade so far.

More than 100,000 students and opposition supporters joined a 26th day of demonstrations, jamming the city center and adjoining streets.

Our correspondent also reports Belgrade students staged a 20-kilometer march across the city.

Zajedno leader Vuk Draskovic rejected the idea of OSCE intervention: He said, "What we want is to be given back what has been stolen from us."

Milosevic, under severe U.S. pressure, said in a letter to Secretary of State Warren Christopher that Serbia had a healthy democracy and accused Zajedno of "political terrorism."

Milosevic proposed the OSCE should check the November vote in which Zajedno said the socialists suffered their worst defeat in 50 years of unbroken rule.

Zajedno accused the socialists of stuffing ballot boxes in provincial towns. In Belgrade, the socialists initially admitted defeat before accusing Zajedno of "irregularities." The courts have siddes with the socialists.

The socialists issued an invitation to the opposition to hold a parliamentary debate on the recent elections and the role of the media.

But Zajedno has said it would boycott any dialogue until the results of the local elections were reinstated.