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Yugoslavia: Opposition Says It Won't Budge on Key Issues

Efforts by the Yugoslav united opposition to push for early elections and control of the Interior Ministry appear to have sparked a breakdown in transition talks with parties allied to former President Slobodan Milosevic. RFE/RL's Alexandra Poolos reports from Belgrade that the opposition looks firm in insisting on a December deadline for new Serbian parliamentary elections and that its hand is strengthened by continued massive popular support.

Belgrade, 12 October 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Yugoslavia's opposition says it will not budge on the key issues of holding early elections for the Serb parliament and who will control the Serbian interior ministry.

Talks between the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) and parties allied to former President Slobodan Milosevic broke down last night (Oct. 10) after the Milosevic allies abruptly withdrew.

The united opposition is insisting early elections be held in December and that control of the Interior Ministry, and with it control over Serbia's large police force, remains in its grasp in a transitional government until a vote can be held.

Officials with Milosevic's Socialist Party (SPS) and its ally, the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), say they will return to the discussions only after what they call "violence" and "lawlessness" among the citizens is curtailed. They were referring to increasing incidents of violence throughout the country as workers and students rise up against former bosses and teachers, many of whom were appointed by Milosevic and are suspected of being corrupt.

Meanwhile, Belgrade radio B2-92 is reported yesterday that the Interior Ministry has been placed under control of a Milosevic ally: Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic.

Branislav Ivkovic, of Milosevic's Socialist Party, says Marjanovic has reimposed control over the republic's around 100,000 police officers.

Dusan Mihailovic, an opposition leader, accused Milosevic of orchestrating the moves in an attempt to create, in his word, "anarchy."

Professor Dragoljub Micunovic, another opposition figure, tells RFE/RL the SPS and SRS are using the reports of violence as an excuse to say they want control over the police in order to protect the people and Serbian public assets.

He says, though, that the escalating violence is exactly the reason why questions on the composition of the transitional government must be resolved quickly:

"These things that are happening, these attacks against factory directors and attacks against party headquarters, this is exactly the reason to hurry with forming a transition government."

The coalition of 18 opposition groups backed new President Vojislav Kostunica in elections last month and supported him during massive street demonstrations last week that brought him to power.

The coalition says the early elections are necessary to quickly clear the Serb parliament of Milosevic supporters. It argues Kostunica's election to the federal presidency -- a highly symbolic but mostly ceremonial post -- has drastically changed the political landscape and that the parliament should reflect the new situation.

Our correspondent says the rapid resignations of Milosevic appointees in companies and the universities indicate the opposition continues to enjoy the strong backing of the people, most of whom are tired of years of corruption, isolation and misrule under Milosevic.

With the strong public support for the opposition, it's not clear how much actual support parties associated with Milosevic still command.

Earlier this week, the leader of one of the parties, SRS head Vojislav Seselj, was jeered by an angry crowd outside the Serbian parliament -- in spite of earlier giving his support to Kostunica.

The opposition says the citizens of Serbia have not forgotten the corruption of these parties' past.

The vice president of the Radical Party, Tomislav Nikolic, says the negotiations over the date of elections and other issues are not yet finished.