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Serbia: Orthodox Bishops To Meet About Protests

Belgrade, 31 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church has called a meeting of bishops to discuss the wave of protests rocking the government of President Slobodan Milosevic. The independent Beta news agency said today that most bishops in the church will take part in the two-day synod starting Thursday. For weeks, many of the bishops have been urging the church to publicly announce its position on the protests, triggered by the government's annulment of opposition victories in local elections last month.

The head of the church, Patriarch Pavle, warned the government last Tuesday against using force against demonstrators.

Meanwhile, the parliament in Montenegro, Serbia's last remaining partner in the Yugoslav federation, passed a resolution today calling for the truth to be established about last month's local election results in Serbia.

The official Yugoslav news agency, Tanjug, which carried extracts of the resolution, said it called for the truth to be established in what it called "a democratic manner."

The cancellation by the ruling socialist party of opposition victories in the local elections sparked more than six weeks of protests.

Those protests continued today with opposition supporters saying they were planning a mass party in the streets of Belgrade tonight to usher in the New Year.

Organizers said party-goers are being asked to bring bells and alarm clocks so they can be rung at the midnight hour to signal to President Slobodan Milosevic that his time as leader is running out.

Meanwhile France warned Serbia today that it risked increasing isolation if it refused to implement the recommendations of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, and recognize the opposition victory.