Milosevic Conciliatory as Court Reviews Election

BELGRADE -- Serbia's opposition scented possible victory in their campaign against socialist election fraud when the Belgrade election commission asked the supreme court Thursday to review disputed results.

The move followed signals that President Slobodan Milosevic has ordered moves to appease students and supporters of the opposition Zajedno coalition who have harassed the ruling socialists with 18 days of mass demonstrations in Belgrade.

Zajedno said it was told by the commission that a decision was requested from the supreme court on the fate of seats the opposition claimed it won in Belgrade in the elections Nov. 17.

The court is expected to issue a ruling within 48 hours and the commission said the public prosecutor was asked to start an investigation, implying that prosecutions could follow.

Milosevic's socialists first admitted defeat but then had Zajedno's majority revoked because of unspecified "irregularities."

The suppression of the biggest setback for socialist rule in Serbia since World War II set off the most intense challenge Milosevic has faced since he gained power in 1987.

Students paraded an effigy of Milosevic in prison garb through Belgrade on Thursday and built a brick wall outside the federal parliament to symbolize the gulf between the Serbian people and the ruling socialists.

A student organizer called Boris said: "We are trying to prove that we are building Serbia up, not destroying it like Milosevic. Milosevic and his politicians are cut off from the people."

Milosevic, warned by the United States not to resort to violence, has already begun a purge of party officials accused of election fraud and offered olive branches to the people.

The government has promised cash for students and pensioners together with cheaper electricity for the nation.

Radio Index, whose transmitter was switched off this week after it broadcast live reports on the daily demonstrations, returned to the air Thursday.

There were signs that Radio B-92, the main independent station in Belgrade which lost its frequency at the same time, would also be allowed back after an international outcry.

Efforts to pave the way to a solution coincided with the return of Milosevic's wife Mirjana from a visit to India.

Mrs. Milosevic, an avowed marxist who leads her own party in alliance with the socialists, is reputed to wield strong influence over her husband.

The Serbian leader also met President Momir Bulatovic of Montenegro, Serbia's partner in the Yugoslav federation, which has been issuing cries of alarm at the turmoil in Belgrade

Milosevic was reported to have accepted the "resignation" of the socialist boss in the southern town of Nis where blatant stuffing of ballot boxes with socialist votes triggered the first protests.

Belgrade newspapers said Serbian Information Minister Alexander Tijanic, a government stalwart, had also resigned. Other high-ranking officials in the capital and provinces were expected to be sacrificed as Milosevic distanced himself from the main culprits to placate the demonstrators.