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Protesters Say They Can Hold Out ‘One Day Longer’ Than Serb Leader

December 8, 1996

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Bundled in a thick woolen scarf, a cheap down jacket and ski cap against near-freezing temperatures, Vesna Trajkovic said Sunday she could endure protests for justice ``as long as it takes.″

How long is that?

``One day longer than he can,″ she said with a grin, referring to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

She is not alone. More than 100,000 people have joined protests that have become a nightly ritual in the Serbian capital since courts controlled by Milosevic annulled opposition victories in Nov. 17 local elections.

State-run media have played down the demonstrators as a small band of trouble-makers.

There were a few instances of stone-throwing, but for the most part the crowds have been peaceful _ blowing whistles, shaking rattles, tossing balloons and firecrackers.

``I simply can’t give up coming to the rallies,″ said Trajkovic, 31 and unemployed. ``I’m fed up with Milosevic and what he made this country look like.″

Milosevic once had extraordinary grass-root support in Serbia.

As Communists were being thrown from power across the region in 1989, Milosevic transformed himself into a nationalist and vowed to stick up for Serbs.

He then instigated wars in Croatia and Bosnia, which left more than 200,000 people dead or missing. His country suffered 3 1/2 years of economic sanctions as a result. He also has shown little interest in privatizing the state-run economy, instead relying on the tenets of his Communist past.

Zoran Djindjic, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, said it was no longer a question of the opposition winning back its election gains.

``This is an uprising to win democracy,″ he said. ``It’s no longer important whether he would revoke the decisions which robbed us of our victory.″

Students, the middle class, intellectuals and blue-collar workers all are disgruntled.

``Dissatisfaction is enormous,″ added Dusan Radojcic, a 25-year-old student. ``This is obviously dictatorship, and he is so callous that he doesn’t even mind being called dictator.″

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