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Serbs Asked To Protest Milosevic

September 23, 1999

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Opposition leaders on Thursday urged more people to join street protests demanding the ouster of President Slobodan Milosevic after the relatively poor turnout throughout Serbia raised doubts about the effectiveness of their strategy.

As thousands marched for the third consecutive day, a prominent opposition leader warned that failure by peaceful demonstrators to force the Yugoslav leader from office would perpetuate his rule.

``If we don’t succeed the worst will happen _ Milosevic will rule for decades more,″ said Zoran Djindjic, whose Democratic Party is a member of the opposition coalition Alliance for Change spearheading rallies against Milosevic.

``Belgraders yet have to realize that Milosevic’s regime took away our freedom, our future _ if that is not reason enough to prevail on the streets, what is?″ Djindjic asked as he addressed a crowd of up to 2,000 assembled on a downtown square.

``We have only two or three months left. I am calling on those who still don’t see what is going on to rise,″ Djindjic said.

Afterward, the crowd grew to 5,000 as people marched through the downtown area, booing, whistling and chanting ``Go, Slobo, Go″ and ``Thieves, thieves, resign.″ Traffic police scrambled to clear cars ahead of the marchers.

Earlier, Vladan Batic, another opposition leader, said that despite the low turnout _ the first day of protests had drawn only 10,000 to 15,000 of Belgrade’s 2 million populace _ the opposition was pleased with the popular response and expected the demonstrations to grow in coming days.

Similar rallies are being held daily since Tuesday in some 20 other cities and towns in Serbia. On Thursday, about 5,000 opposition supporters turned up in Nis and Novi Sad respectively, Serbia’s second and third largest cities.

State-run media were quick to dismiss the rallies as a ``total debacle.″

``It was evident today in Belgrade that the Alliance for Change, regardless of the enormous support from their Western sponsors, cannot woo residents of Serbia to (support) their treacherous policies,″ a commentary carried by the state-run Tanjug news agency read. ``Djindjic and his followers are desperate for a formula to attract more protesters.″

The state media accused the protesters of violence, saying the marchers had damaged two vehicles in the traffic confusion they caused. Independent reporters saw the cars had actually charged at the coming demonstrators.

As if dispelling doubts on whether the movement can succeed and clutching the opposition’s pamphlet ``Change,″ 25-year-old Belgrade student Ceca Ilic said she gives the protests at least two to three months to topple the regime.

A marching pensioner, Milan Aksic, 65, said he had confidence: ``I’ll be here every day _ a person without faith has no future.″

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