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Serbia: Police Give Way To Student Protesters

Belgrade, 9 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Police in Belgrade appear to have backed down from a showdown this afternoon with university students protesting the annulment of opposition victories in November elections.

Reuters news agency reports that police have dismantled a cordon that the students vowed to stand before day and night until it was removed. Police reportedly left one by one and headed toward buses parked in nearby streets. Students cheered, clapped and waved in response. Some 20,000 university students had vowed to remain on the streets as long as police did.

Student protest organizers are demanding Serbian authorities concede the loss of all the 14 cities the opposition won in November's local elections. The Serbian government acknowledged last night that opposition candidates had won elections in Nis, Serbia's second-largest city.

Riot police have blocked opposition marches for the past two weeks by enforcing restrictions that prevent demonstrations from interrupting the flow of traffic.

Reuters reports that security forces are remaining in place, however, for a separate protest by the Zajedno opposition coalition scheduled for later this afternoon in Belgrade.