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  White House Says Milosevic Must Go

By Lawrence L. Knutson
Associated Press Writer
Friday, Sept. 29, 2000; 4:59 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON –– The Clinton administration insisted again Friday that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic clearly lost his re-election contest and should leave office without delay.

"We've made very clear that we believe the Serbian opposition has won this election, that Milosevic should go," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said.

He said all observers not "under the thumb of the government" agree that "the opposition has won this election."

Milosevic has refused to recognize challenger Vojislav Kostunica's apparent victory in Sunday's elections, saying he would move ahead with plans for an Oct. 8 runoff. The State Election Commission controlled by Milosevic's government said Kostunica earned 48 percent of the vote to 38 percent for Milosevic, less than a majority. But opposition poll watchers said Kostunica won 52 percent of the vote, compared with 32 percent for Milosevic.

The United States has sought Milosevic's ouster since it led NATO air strikes on Belgrade last year in response to attacks on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Lockhart called any conclusions reached by the election commission "inherently suspect." He said the opposition's position, shared by most countries which have expressed an opinion, "is that the first-round results were clear and that Milosevic should go and respect the will of the people of Serbia."

Street demonstrations aimed at Milosevic's ouster have broken out in Serbia. "How the opposition presses its case is up to them," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, adding that since the media is largely controlled by the government "people are going to want to express themselves."

Boucher said, however, that while "we can understand the outrage" in Serbia that the government may be trying to steal the election, "nobody is encouraging violence; not we, nor the opposition"

President Clinton has said that he believes international sanctions should be removed as soon as a democratically elected government is installed in Belgrade.

© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press

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