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Serbia: Court Rejects Opposition Victory In Belgrade

Belgrade, 27 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - A Belgrade municipal court has upheld a previous decision rejecting an election victory by Serbia's opposition in the capital.

Radomir Lazarevic, head of the city's electoral commission, today said the court had informed the commission that its recognition of the opposition victory in the vote was "legally invalid." Court annulments of opposition municipal election victories have prompted two months of mass street protests.

Opposition leader Vuk Draskovic told a rally in the city center later that he had heard of the court's decision, but that opposition protests against election fraud would continue and would "eventually prevail."

Meanwhile, Russia's deputy foreign minister today began talks to help break the standoff. Igor Ivanov met his Yugoslav counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, but refused to make any comment after the meeting. He is scheduled to meet Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and opposition leaders Draskovic and Vesna Pesic later today.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Yves Doutriaux said Paris hopes Russia can help defuse Serbia's political crisis by persuading Belgrade to recognize the opposition victories.

More than 100,000 opposition protesters marched through Belgrade today, capitalizing on a religious feast day to circumvent a ban on marching.