Milosevic Foes Call Traffic Jam Protest

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Trying to outwit police who have blocked their marches in order to keep traffic moving, protest leaders called on supporters to drive downtown Sunday and create a pro-democracy traffic jam.


A leading opposition party challenged the president of Yugoslavia, Zoran Lilic, to explain why a large force of riot police had been deployed.


The Democratic Party said in a letter Sunday that the right to freedom of movement and association can be restricted only when police are searching for a suspect, preventing the spread of contagious diseases, or the country is under attack.


The opposition has vowed to keep up its daily protests -- the biggest challenge to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in his nine years in power.


"There will be no quitting till our victory is confirmed,'' opposition leader Zoran Djindjic told about 40,000 demonstrators on Saturday. The protests, now in their sixth week, were sparked by the government's annulment of local elections in more than a dozen cities that the opposition won.


International fact-finders from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported Dec. 27 that the Serbian opposition had won local elections in Belgrade and 13 other cities.


Milosevic's close aide, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic, later acknowledged that the opposition won nine of 16 district boards in Belgrade. He said nothing about the main Belgrade city council, which is elected separately.


The OSCE report had confirmed the opposition victory in the Belgrade city council as well as the nine districts, OSCE spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told The Associated Press on Saturday by telephone from Vienna, Austria.


The mayor of Belgrade, an ally of Milosevic, reportedly resigned in protest over the Serbian leader's refusal to concede electoral defeat in the capital.


The departure of Mayor Nebojsa Covic, reported in Belgrade newspapers on Saturday, could not be confirmed. If true, it would mark the first major defection from the president's Socialist Party core supporters.


Two independent newspapers, Nasa Borba and Dnevni Telegraf, reported that Covic had decided Friday to leave office on Saturday. Covic's office was closed Saturday and he could not be reached to confirm the reports. Milosevic's regime remained defiant Saturday. Election officials in Nis, Serbia's second-largest city, ordered a repeat of the Nov. 17 vote. Opposition leaders who assert they won the election said they would boycott.


"There is no way that we'll take part in any new elections. We have won, and that's it,'' said Zoran Zivkovic, an opposition leader in Nis.


Zivkovic warned that unless Milosevic concedes by Tuesday, tens of thousands of Nis residents would go to Belgrade next week and march to the president's home.


U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher sent a "very tough'' message to Milosevic on Friday, warning that his country faces "increased isolation'' unless the electoral results are accepted.


The influential Serbian Orthodox Church broke its silence last week, accusing Milosevic of trying to set Serb against Serb to hold onto power.