OSCE Report Spurs Serbian Opposition

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Some 60,000 opposition supporters defied riot police to rally in central Belgrade on Friday, buoyed by international mediators who upheld their victories over Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in local elections.


After the rally ended, police clubbed members of a small group of protesters. At least two of the victims were hurled to the ground with blood pouring from their heads. A crowd witnessing the attack shouted "Murderers! Fascists!" at the police.


The attack was a sobering note on a day of triumph for the opposition.


Former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, reporting on a visit to Belgrade last weekend, said all sides should respect the results of Nov. 17 municipal elections in which the opposition polled strongly. Courts close to Milosevic later annulled some results, including the key opposition victory in Belgrade, sparking more than a month of daily protests.


The European Union said Serbian authorities "must now accept and abide by the Nov. 17 election results" -- effectively saying that Milosevic had to reinstate the opposition victories. A statement by the EU presidency urged the Milosevic camp to "act quickly."


Though it did not say what would happen if authorities ignored the report's recommendations, the firm tone of the statement suggested that economic sanctions were one option.


France, in a separate statement, also called on Serbia to act on Gonzalez's recommendations, calling them "a last chance of appeasement."


Reporting in Geneva to the chairman of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti, Gonzalez said the opposition coalition Zajedno, or Together, won victories in 13 towns, including Serbia's second city of Nis, and in nine districts of Belgrade.


That meant the opposition also won Belgrade, which has had communist mayors since World War II.


The capital and all 13 other towns had previously been claimed by Zajedno. Two of them, Kragujevac and Zrenjanin, had already been conceded by Milosevic's Socialists.


"I consider that the authorities, like all the political forces in Yugoslavia, should accept the results of the local elections on Nov. 17," Gonzalez told reporters after meeting Cotti.


Gonzalez' report stressed "there is no question about the results of the local elections" elsewhere in Serbia, "nor of the fact that the candidates of [Milosevic's] coalition ... won the majority of the votes" overall.


Neither Gonzalez nor the OSCE, from which Serb-led Yugoslavia was suspended in 1992 over the Bosnian war, have power to enforce their conclusions.


Nikola Sainovic, Milosevic's closest aide, already had anticipated the outside pressure Thursday and insisted to reporters that only Serbian authorities could determine what happens in Serbia.


The effect of Gonzalez' report -- relayed to students and other demonstrators by independent radio stations and blared from opposition headquarters in downtown Belgrade -- was electric.


Crowds chanted "Victory!" and swarmed on to downtown Republic Square for a 38th straight day.