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Milosevic Party Accepts Demands

October 23, 2000

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Slobodan Milosevic’s party bowed Monday to pro-democracy demands on the makeup of a transitional government in Yugoslavia’s main republic, but the deal hit another snag when Radical Serb nationalists tried to block it approval.

After Milosevic’s party agreed to accept pro-democracy candidates for leadership positions in Serbia, the republic’s parliament met to approve the transition government and set Dec. 23 as the date for Serbian elections. But the Radical Serb nationalists quickly began a filibuster, appealing to Milosevic’s Socialist Party not to go along with the new leadership’s plans.

``This is a crime, a coup against the state,″ railed Radical Party delegate Aleksandar Vucic during a parliamentary debate.

Yugoslavia is made up of two republics, dominant Serbia and smaller Montenegro. The new elections in Serbia will give new Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica the chance to rid the Yugoslav establishment of the last remaining stronghold of Milosevic support.

But the Radicals, who hold 82 seats in the 250-member Serbian legislature, fared poorly in Sept. 24 federal elections and apparently fear a significant loss in the next round. They lack the votes to prevent enactment of the pro-democracy leaders’ transition plan but they can delay the move by filibustering.

The pro-democracy forces’ plan calls for them and the Socialists to share top posts in key ministries such as police, finance, judiciary and information until a new government is formed after the December ballot.

The Socialists agreed to the arrangement last week and then balked, saying the alliance was expanding its demands above and beyond the original agreement. On Monday, though, they appeared to have decided to cut their losses and accept new elections to avoid losing what stature they still have among the public following the Oct. 5 uprising that forced the autocratic Milosevic from power.

Parliament speaker Dragan Tomic, a Milosevic crony, opened the session Monday by confirming the agreement with Kostunica’s Democratic Opposition of Serbia for a transition government and new elections.

``The Socialist Party made the agreement in order to defuse tensions in Serbia, and allow the citizens of Serbia to make their choice in December elections,″ said the Socialist Party’s secretary-general, Zoran Andjelkovic.

The Serbian parliament was not up for election in the Sept. 24 ballot and new elections were not expected before late next year. The Socialists hold 110 of the 250 seats in the Serbian assembly.

Getting a new government in place is critical if the country is to receive massive aid promised by the United States and the European Union. The EU has promised $175 million in emergency aid once there are new administrations in Serbia and at the federal level.

Kostunica has yet to form a federal Cabinet because of differences with the administration in Montenegro.

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