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Protests in Serbia Archive
Odraz B92 Daily News Service

    ODRAZ B92, Belgrade                             Daily News Service
    Odraz B92 vesti (by 3 PM), January 7, 1997

    e-mail: beograd@siicom.com      URL: http://www.siicom.com/odrazb/
            odrazb92@b92.opennet.org     http://www.siicom.com/b92/
    All texts are Copyright 1997 Radio B92. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.



    Several hundred thousand Belgraders gathered last night in front
    of St. Sava Church in Belgrade to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas
    Eve. Head of the Serbian Church, Patriarch Pavle addressed the
    crowd and wished them well, saluting them with ``the ancient
    greeting used by our ancestors: God's Peace, Christ Is Born.''  He
    then proceeded to light the oak branches which are the traditional
    Serbian equivalent of the Yule log. Although they appeared
    together with the Patriarch, Zajedno leaders and the leaders of
    the Student Protest did not address the crowds. The majority of
    those attending were participants of Zajedno rallies and student
    protests. Zajedno supporters, who had previously gathered in
    Republic Square, set out on foot towards the Church of St. Sava
    around 8 p.m., completely blocking the traffic on their way there.
    The students had previously gathered in front of the School of
    Philosophy and set out on foot following the same route. In the
    course of the Christmas Eve ceremony, Patriarch Pavle spoke of the
    burning of the oak branches as a symbolic representation of the
    strength, warmth and light associated with the oak tree, ``the
    toughest tree growing on our soil, [whose fire] gives us light and
    warmth.''  He wished a merry Christmas to all Orthodox believers,
    as well as to all ``people of good will whose beliefs and opinions
    differ from ours.'' After his address, a display of fireworks was
    set off, and the enormous crowd headed back towards the pedestrian
    zone in Knez Mihajlova Street. Armed with whistles and trumpets,
    they formed a protest column that wound its way through downtown
    Belgrade, making stupendous amounts of noise that rose in a
    crescendo in front of the Serbian Presidency, the buildings of the
    Serbian Parliamentary buildings, and the City Hall. Huge numbers
    of Belgraders remained in front of the Church of St. Sava to
    attend the midnight Christmas service. Coalition Zajedno announced
    that their next protest meeting will take place in Republic Square
    today, at 6 p.m., reports FoNet.


    Serbian Patriarch His Holiness Pavle delivered the morning
    Christmas service in Belgrade's main Cathedral today. The service
    was followed by a reading of his Christmas epistle. The text of
    his Christmas letter to the nation proclaims that any state should
    be based on the principles of justice and truth, reports FoNet.
    ``Respect for the law and for the spirit of justice requires
    everyone to honor the freely expressed will of the people, to curb
    individual self-will and avoid aggression, which neither will nor
    can bring any good to the people and the state itself,'' reads a
    part of Patriarch Pavle's epistle.


    This Christmas Eve saw the 50th straight protest rally in Nis,
    which took place immediately following the public celebration of
    the birth of Christ. The citizens of Nis were addressed by Rev.
    Rasa, who wished them Peace on Earth and a merry Christmas. Risto
    Bukvic then invited the already swelling crowd to form a
    procession. At the head of the procession were lines of men and
    women carrying the consecrated oak branches as well as Serbian
    flags. The crowd walked to the Cathedral, where they were
    addressed by the head of the Nis bishopric, Archbishop Irinei.
    More than 25,000 residents of Nis attended the religious ritual of
    burning the consecrated oak tree. Despite the suggestion by
    Zajedno that no protest rally should be held on Christmas, many
    citizens demanded that the protests should not be stopped even for
    one day.


    Today's issue of The Independent said that the officers and
    members of elite regiments of the Yugoslav Army are not prepared
    to support Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic if he orders the
    army to move against the demonstrators, reports AFP. ``If
    Milosevic ordered a show-down, I would be prepared to shoot him,''
    the daily quoted an unnamed commander of a tank brigade. The
    British daily also claims that Yugoslav Army forces have confirmed
    that half the officers and the majority of its recruits support
    the demonstrators and would do anything in their power to avert
    bloodshed and political repression in Serbia. Another unnamed
    major, identified only as a member of an elite regiment, said that
    ``if Milosevic tries to use the army, the army will be used
    against him.''  The same Yugoslav army officer said that a
    possible police action against the demonstrators would be met by a
    decisive response by the army. ``We would first issue a warning,
    and then take forceful action, if necessary,'' he said. He also
    told the daily that his regiment has sent a letter to Army Chief
    of Staff Momcilo Perisic, saying that it would stand up against
    any attempt to use it against demonstrators. According to the
    major, general Perisic replied that the army's task was to uphold
    the constitution and specified that the army would not take part
    in any actions to crush the protests.


    Zoran Djindjic, leader of the DS, demanded that the West step up
    its pressure on Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, reports AFP.
    Djindjic told the German radio Saarland that Western states should
    back the demands of the Serbian opposition for reinstatement of
    the November 17 local electoral results. ``At present, this is
    probably the only thing that could influence Milosevic to get
    going,'' said Djindjic. According to him, the West should make it
    clear to Milosevic that ``this is the last chance to begin the
    process of democratization in Serbia.''  If Milosevic refuses, he
    should not be given ``another chance to play games with the
    West,'' added Djindjic.

    He said it is unlikely that he will travel to Washington to attend
    US President Bill Clinton's inauguration on January 20 because his
    place is in Belgrade as long as the daily protest rallies
    continue. Speaking to the Berlin InfoRadio, Djindjic stated that
    it was the opposition victory in the local elections which
    compelled the OSCE ``to do something.'' ``We hope that in the next
    10 days the West will come up with concrete proposals about how to
    punish Milosevic politically for jeopardizing the process of
    democratization in Serbia,'' he added. Djindjic said the
    opposition is relying on the West to offer substantial economic
    aid to Serbia in the event of a major political change there. If
    the West fails to provide Serbia with economic aid, Djindjic
    warned that with the ensuing popular discontent, ``there would be
    a real danger of a fresh upsurge of nationalism.''


    In the last month and a half, throughout the period marked by
    anti-government demonstrations against the regime's nullification
    of local electoral results in Serbia, Internet's importance as the
    global computer network has been amply confirmed, reads an article
    in the latest issue of the Czech weekly ``Tiden,'' reports FoNet.
    The weekly focused on the role played by the Internet in
    circumventing the information blockade which could otherwise have
    arisen from the banning of some independent radio stations in
    Serbia. Their news services were promptly moved onto the Internet
    and distributed over an Amsterdam server. The article went on to
    say that 2 servers have been established in Belgrade itself,
    providing information on the protests.

    At the same time, expressions of support for Serbian demonstrators
    have been pouring in from all over the world via e-mail. The
    article concludes that ``in general, the whole of the former
    Yugoslavia has become a touchstone case for the Internet.''  The
    Czech weekly notes that e-mail was widely used during the war in
    Bosnia, allowing Sarajevo its own link to the Internet. For many
    people in Bosnia, this was their sole connection with the world.


    Today's issue of Montenegrin daily Pobjeda said that renewed
    international isolation of Yugoslavia would be much tougher and
    have far more fatal consequences than the previous one. The main
    reason for this, argues the article in Pobjeda, is that the
    conditions for its lifting would be harsher since the sanctions
    would have been imposed for the second time on the same country,
    report MontenaFax and FoNet. The daily also points out that
    ``judging by the statements made by numerous political figures in
    the West, if the OSCE commission's report does not receive a
    constructive and sensible response from the Serbian authorities,
    isolation is on the way.''


    Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic again met with Belgrade's
    Mayor Nebojsa Covic (also a leading member of the SPS) yesterday
    and tried to persuade him (for the third time in the last four
    days) not to give up his office as mayor. Dnevni Telegraf cannot
    confirm what arguments Milosevic may have put forward, but its
    sources claim that Covic returned from the meeting in
    conspicuously better spirits and considerably more optimistic.
    Dnevni Telegraf's well-informed source claims that Covic did not
    change any of his demands: recognition of the second electoral
    round, changes in the SPS leadership and its distancing from JUL.
    The daily also reports that, for the first time, Milosevic
    yesterday expressly promised Covic that Milosevic himself will
    insist that the ``truth [regarding the elections] be established
    and fully respected.''  According to this source, Milosevic also
    said he felt betrayed by some of his closest party associates and
    JUL officials who have been advising him. The source claims that
    Covic gave in to Milosevic's new pledges and expects Milosevic to
    take the first step towards resolving the electoral crisis by the
    end of this week. A reliable source close to the SPS leadership
    thinks, however, that Covic gave in too easily to Milosevic's
    arguments and fell victim to manipulation by Milosevic, who is
    well known for his use of delay tactics.


    For the last few days, the Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti has
    been showing signs of a completely new editorial policy. Today's
    issue, for example, endeavors to give as objective a picture as
    possible of the demonstrations and traffic jams in Belgrade, and
    reports on the meetings the students have had with the army Chief
    of Staff and Serbia's Interior Minister. It even has an article on
    Europe's views on the current crisis, carried under the title
    ``Decision by the OSCE Legally Impeccable.''

    Prepared by: Aleksandra Scepanovic
    Edited by: Vaska Andjelkovic (Tumir)

    ODRAZ B92, Belgrade                             Daily News Service
    e-mail: beograd@siicom.com      URL: http://www.siicom.com/odrazb/
            odrazb92@b92.opennet.org     http://www.siicom.com/b92/

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