BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ In a rare public appearance, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic reopened an oil refinery destroyed by NATO bombing on Tuesday, praising Serbs' unity in rebuilding the country.

During his tour of Pancevo, just northeast of Belgrade, Milosevic appeared to be trying to boost his public image amid opposition demands for his ouster.

Addressing 100 workers, he called for the start of production in Yugoslavia's largest refinery, which was ruined in the 78-day bombing campaign, the state Tanjug news agency reported.

Saying his country remained under foreign pressure, Milosevic praised the people's unity in following the NATO ``aggression.''

``The reconstruction of our country is victorious, just as the defense of our county was heroic and victorious,'' Milosevic said, continuing to claim that Yugoslavia defeated NATO.

Milosevic, who has rarely appeared in public since NATO's intervention ended in June, has faced daily protests by thousands of opposition supporters who demand he step down.

During his brief speech, Milosevic made no mention of the opposition or the southern Kosovo province, which is now under U.N. and NATO control.

Milosevic said Serbia's industrial production had increased by 50 percent since May _ which would make it one of Europe's fastest growing economies _ but acknowledged that ``a great number of citizens live in hard conditions.''

All of the top Serbian leaders accompanied Milosevic in Pancevo _ a show of unity among the leadership.