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Serbian Opposition Is Fractious

June 22, 1999

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Political opponents of President Slobodan Milosevic on Tuesday demanded urgent democratic changes, but more cracks appeared in the fractured democratic opposition, diminishing prospects for a united anti-government front.

``We are demanding very brave, very democratic changes in the country,″ declared Vuk Draskovic, a former federal minister who occasionally cooperated with Milosevic but was sacked during the NATO air war for criticizing the government. ``We are demanding democratic elections.″

Draskovic said the democratization of Serbia and the country’s reconciliation with the world must start ``right now.″ He ruled out street protests for the time being, but said he believed there are people in the ruling parties loyal to Milosevic who realize it is time for reforms.

Milosevic’s Socialist-communist coalition appears shaken after the NATO bombing campaign and Serb forces’ withdrawal from Kosovo. The United States and its allies have said Serbia won’t get any reconstruction aid until Milosevic, indicted for war crimes in Kosovo, is out of power.

Another opposition coalition _ the U.S.-backed Alliance for Change _ announced it would start organizing rallies throughout Serbia to demand elections and resignations of Milosevic and his government.

The group, which comprises a number of key opposition parties, said the removal of Milosevic’s regime is crucial for the survival of the state and its people.

The coalition is believed to be the main, genuinely pro-democracy movement in the country. It also has close cooperation with pro-Western forces in Yugoslavia’s rebellious junior republic of Montenegro.

But on Tuesday it also showed signs of cracking as one of its parties announced it was leaving the coalition. The Democratic Alternative, led by former Milosevic ally Nebojsa Covic, said it was quitting the group because of ``serious political differences.″

The rift within the coalition and the lack of cooperation between Draskovic and other opposition parties show Milosevic’s opponents remain divided.

In the winter of 1996, three main opposition leaders, including Draskovic and former Belgrade Mayor Zoran Djindjic, led more than three months of anti-Milosevic protests that seriously shook the strongman’s rule.

But the then-coalition called Zajedno, or Together, later broke up over personal rivalries.

Analysts in Serbia now believe the opposition stands no chance against Milosevic until it forms a united front.

Ultranationalists, led by Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, could even profit from the fractured opposition and emerge victorious in the elections that are expected to be held next year.

At a news conference Tuesday, Draskovic, who once led street protests in Belgrade, said he was ready ``to light the flame of change″ in Serbia. But he ruled out cooperating with the Alliance for Change, predicting the group would not win more than 2 percent of the vote in the next elections.

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