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  Yugoslavia Opposition Boycotts EU

By Katarina Kratovac
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, Oct. 12, 1999; 4:37 p.m. EDT

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia –– A Serbian opposition leader criticized his pro-democracy partners Tuesday for boycotting a European Union meeting, saying a united opposition could have persuaded the EU to ease sanctions against Serbia.

Vuk Obradovic, head of the Social Democratic Party, defended an EU declaration that demanded cooperation with the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

Upon returning from Luxembourg, where he attended Monday's meeting with European foreign ministers, Obradovic told the independent Radio Index there was nothing disputable in the declaration.

"Had we all been there, I am convinced we could have made very important steps," Obradovic said, adding that he had called for the lifting of an oil embargo against Serbia.

Obradovic was referring to those in the Alliance for Change, the group organizing daily protests to call for the ouster of President Slobodan Milosevic, who has been indicted by the U.N. tribunal.

Despite Serbia's isolation by some world powers, the EU had pledged to help the country's pro-democracy forces and communities by supplying heating oil and humanitarian aid.

But most opposition forces backed out of the Luxembourg meeting because of the EU declaration, which they thought called for Milosevic's extradition to The Hague by any government that might succeed him. They argued that signing such a declaration would be political suicide in Serbia.

Obradovic said the declaration was an EU document only, and did not mention Milosevic's extradition.

Also Tuesday, the opposition Alliance dismissed the latest barrage of accusations from Milosevic and announced new tactics aimed at ousting the Yugoslav president.

Milosevic, speaking Monday at the inauguration of a railroad station to replace one destroyed by NATO, accused the opposition of preferring to instigate a civil war than to rebuild the devastated country.

"Nothing else could have been expected from Milosevic but to unleash every available arsenal against us," Milan Protic, from the Alliance, told The Associated Press.

"The horrific situation in the country tells plainly enough who is to blame, and, try as he might, Milosevic could not hide his fear that the people are going to see through him," Protic said.

Milosevic called the opposition "cowards and blackmailers" and Western stooges who "drag themselves through the streets" – a reference to their daily protests. It was the first time Milosevic spoke about the protests.

Another opposition figure and the former Yugoslav National Bank governor, Dragoslav Avramovic, dismissed Milosevic's tirade as utter "nonsense."

"They (the regime) are the ones beating up people – who pulled out the truncheons?" Avramovic said in Belgrade.

If the regime cared about preventing a civil war, it should schedule early elections, the opposition said.

The Alliance also announced new tactics for its daily demonstrations against the president. Starting this week, the rallies are to include additional protests, such as multiple marches to challenge police cordons set up throughout the capital.

On Tuesday, police prevented an opposition march through a Belgrade district. A police cordon pushed opposition leaders and about 1,000 assembled residents off the pavement and onto a sidewalk.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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