Opposition Group Will Back Milosevic

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- While new evidence of mass killings emerged in Kosovo, President Slobodan Milosevic won support Thursday from a key opposition group in a campaign to outmaneuver his critics, retain power and avoid prosecution for crimes committed by his forces.

The commander of U.S. peacekeepers in Kosovo, meanwhile, warned that his soldiers face a continuing threat from the Serbian paramilitaries who remain in the province despite a peace agreement that required all Yugoslav forces to be gone by now.

Milosevic and key lieutenants have been indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal for atrocities committed against Kosovo's Albanian majority in the crackdown that began in Feb. 1998. Western leaders have refused to help rebuild Yugoslavia as long as Milosevic remains in power.

About 10,000 people turned out Wednesday in a central Serbian city to demand Milosevic resign in a protest organized by the Alliance for Change. A regional opposition group scheduled another rally for Friday in Novi Sad, which suffered heavy damage from NATO bombs.

Faced with calls for his resignation and a deepening economic and social crisis, Milosevic is making overtures to various political groups. The spokesman of his Socialist party, Ivica Dacic, called Thursday for a government reorganization to include all parties represented in the parliament f but not the Alliance for Change.

On Thursday, a major pro-democracy party, the Serbian Renewal Movement, indicated it was ready to accept an offer to join the government. The leader of the extremist Serbian Radical Party, Vojislav Seselj, said a coalition is "necessary in order to prevent U.S. intentions to further break up Yugoslavia."

At the same time a Belgrade military court launched a criminal investigation against one of the leaders of the Alliance, Zoran Djindjic, for failing to respond to a draft notice, his lawyer Sinisa Nikolic said. Such an investigation is often the first step toward a formal indictment.

In southwestern Kosovo, German officers said it appeared Serbian paramilitaries had killed at least 119 people during a March 25 sweep through the villages of Celine and Nagafc. A full count of the dead was delayed because of land mines and booby traps in the area.

In Celine, villagers said the dead included Myftar Zeqiri, 60, and 22 other members of his family, who were later buried by survivors in a common grave about 100 meters from their house.

Serbian paramilitaries have been blamed for many of the atrocities in Kosovo. They are supposed to have left Kosovo as part of the agreement that ended the NATO bombardment.

In Pristina, U.S. Brigadier General John Craddock said U.S. forces were investigating reports that Serbian paramilitaries are still operating in Kosovo. U.S. troops came under sniper fire twice last week but suffered no casualties.

"It's a dangerous environment out there," he said. "There are elements ? who wish KFOR forces ill," referring to the peacekeepers by their acronym. "This is not going to be a quick fix. There are still too many acts of violence. There are still too many homes burning at night."

Peacekeepers have been struggling to restore order and prevent reprisal attacks on Serbs by ethnic Albanians since NATO entered the province June 12.

The Yugoslav government complained Thursday that peacekeepers were not doing enough to prevent "terror" against non-Albanians, including Serbs, Gypsies and others. The government also complained that ethnic Albanians were establishing local administrations in Kosovo that jeopardize Yugoslav sovereignty.