SCMP Friday, October 6, 2000
Milosevic regime crumbling: Clinton
AGENCIES in Washington and Paris
The United States yesterday said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's control was crumbling and denounced a ruling by Yugoslavia's constitutional court that would effectively leave him in power.
President Bill Clinton offered strong US support for demonstrators in Belgrade seeking to force Milosevic to hand over power.
He spoke as thousands of demonstrators entered the Yugoslav parliament.
Several policemen were seen to surrender to the crowds and join the demonstration.
But Washington remained cautious in its overt support for the opposition party, aware that because of strong anti-US feelings in Yugoslavia, this could undermine their cause.
"We're watching the scenes in Belgrade," US National Security Council spokesman P. J. Crowley said.
"They clearly indicate both what the Serbian people want, which is democratic change, and Milosevic should listen to their clear call for him to step down."
Another spokesman praised police for making a wise decision to reject apparent orders to use violence against striking miners.
Mr Crowley said there had been no direct US contact with the opposition.
"That's up to the opposition. They are making their own judgments on how to proceed here and that's the way it should be," he said. "Our approach here has always been to support the opposition, but clearly to let the opposition take the lead."
In August, opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica denounced, as a "flagrant interference" in Yugoslavia's internal affairs, a US decision to open an office in Budapest to support democratic forces in Yugoslavia.
Mr Crowley said the US role has been limited to support for institutions that foster democracy, such as independent media.
The court ruling yesterday annulled the disputed presidential election held on September 24, which Yugoslavian opposition claims to have won outright, a claim that the US supports.
The court ordered a re-run of the election, which would allow Milosevic to remain in power for months to come.
The European Union yesterday joined the condemnation of the court decision to annul the election.
"The only aim of this decision is to deny the victory of Vojislav Kostunica in the September 24 poll," a statement issued by the French presidency of the 15-nation EU said.
"Slobodan Milosevic, after trying to rig the results of the September 24 poll and hold a fraudulent second round, is trying again to steal [Kostunica's] victory in a stubborn rearguard battle," it said.
The head of the Constitutional Court said yesterday that the presidential election should be held again after Milosevic's mandate expires in mid-2001. The EU reiterated support for Dr Kostunica and praised the sense of responsibility he and other opposition leaders were displaying.