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Yugoslavia: Chief Justice Tells RFE/RL The Election Is Void

Prague, 5 October 2000 (RFE/RL) - The chief justice of Yugoslavia's federal constitutional court, Milutin Srdic, told RFE/RL today that the court's ruling yesterday voids the presidential election held on September 24. "It means that there will be new elections for president from the very beginning." Srdic, in a telephone interview with RFE/RL's bureau in Sofia said the court's decision means that there will be no runoff election this Sunday. Srdic says the same candidates and even new candidates can participate in the new election. The court has said it will officially announce its decision tomorrow. Justice Srdic says Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic can serve out his term, which expires next July. The private Beta news agency quotes opposition presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica as saying he fears the court ruling might be a "big trap," adding "there is no need to be euphoric."

The opposition insists Kostunica won more than 50 percent of the vote and defeated Milosevic outright. The opposition has given Milosevic a deadline of 1500 Central European Time today to accept Kostunica's outright victory.

Russia's leadership said today that a Yugoslav constitutional court's decision to annul part of the presidential election helps their mediation efforts. Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited Milosevic and Kostunica to Moscow in an attempt to solve the political crisis.

Russia's Security Council secretary, Sergei Ivanov, said the court decision yesterday provides more time to negotiate between the Belgrade leadership and the opposition.

Russia's Foreign Minister Ivan Ivanov said there is now no time limit on the negotiations.

Kostunica has ruled out visiting Moscow and Milosevic has yet to respond to the proposal. Kostunica says Yugoslavia's political system will rid itself of "poison" if Milosevic is forced out of office.

He made the remark in an interview today in the British daily newspaper The Independent. He said it is only a matter of time before Milosevic gives up power.

Kostunica said that whatever happens next, Milosevic is no longer powerful enough to crush his political rivals with violence.

Kostunica said Milosevic will be careful not to engage in bloodshed. He said, "that would be his end -- he's aware of that."