Thursday, 26 December 1996, 10:16 PM
BBC-1 Television 10 pm News reports as follows:
"After five weeks' of protests, riot police in the Serbian capital of Belgrade have again cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrators. Thousands of policemen were sent on to the streets of the city, preventing a planned march by sheer weight of numbers after opposition protesters had gathered in the main square. President Milosevic had warned groups accusing him of election fraud that police would clear the streets if they again blocked the traffic. Opposition leaders accused him of trying to provoke civil war. Our correspondent Paul Wood is in Belgrade."
"Heavily-armed riot police swamped the centre of Belgrade, determined to stop the daily opposition march throughout the city. With their batons, tear-gas and automatic weapons, the police were able to face down the anti-government protesters. They pushed the opposition crowds off the streets and cordoned off the whole area. No-one could leave. Opposition leaders accused President Slobodan Milosevic of seeking bloodshed, bringing Serbia to the edge of civil war. The opposition say they have won the moral high ground and will avoid confrontation with the security forces. After thirty-seven days of marching, the anti-government demonstrators will restrict their protests to Belgrade's main square. [film: riot police chasing protesters] As the crowds dispersed, the opposition say the protesters were set upon by the police. Several demonstrators were treated for cuts and bruises at opposition headquarters. [film of wounded female protester]
"Tonight, both the United States and Britain expressed concern about the new harder line taken by President Milosevic on the streets. [film: riot policeman refuses flowers offered by female protester] But government officials have indicated that the Serbian leader is no longer listening to condemnation from abroad. There seems little chance of a political compromise to end the crisis. The opposition fear a crackdown is just around the corner."
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Transcribed by: Susan Stott,
M. T. S.,
"The Sycamores" 2a, Richmond Road, Birkdale, Southport. PR8 4SB