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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Draskovic Decries Official Serb Line

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- The most liberal member of the Yugoslav government has sharply attacked the use of Serbian wartime patriotism for ideological and political ends, throwing down an indirect challenge to President Slobodan Milosevic and his nationalist and leftist allies, including Milosevic's wife.

In two extraordinary statements over the past three days, Yugoslavia's deputy prime minister, Vuk Draskovic, has become the only official voice to condemn both the murder Sunday of an opposition publisher, Slavko Curuvija, and proposals for Yugoslavia to form an alliance with Russia and Belarus.

"May Slavko Curuvija be the first and last victim of those in Serbia who want to start the mad spiral of fratricide," Draskovic said Monday on Studio B, the Belgrade television station that is controlled by his Serbian Renewal Movement, which governs the capital.

"Those who ordered Curuvija's slaying drew a weapon against Serbia more potent than all NATO missiles," he said.

Draskovic also called on political parties not to manipulate the patriotism and unity of the Serbs in wartime, saying: "All parties should temporarily bury their differences and insignias," attacking in particular the re-emergence of the old Communist partisan flag, with its red star.

On Tuesday, Draskovic went further in attacking the idea of an alliance with Russia and Belarus, which won overwhelming support Monday from the Yugoslav parliament.

The alliance is strongly supported by the Yugoslav Left Party of Milosevic's powerful wife, Mirjana Markovic, who envisions a new communist bloc with Yugoslavia at its heart.

"There are political forces who think we should enter the 21st century on the ruins of a destroyed state," Draskovic said. "They think we should pick up picks and shovels with the same songs, the same iconography, and 50 years later, start building communism all over again. This must not happen."

He also attacked the ultranationalistic Radical Party of Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj for bringing its own banners and pictures of Seselj to the daily Belgrade rock concerts organized by the city. When they did so Monday, the organizers asked them to put down their banners, and the rock band, Del Arno, stopped playing until the Seselj followers dispersed. If such efforts to misuse and manipulate unity continue, Draskovic said, the concerts will stop. "And I don't believe that anyone has the right to lower their heads while journalists are being murdered," Draskovic continued. "The state of war does not mean that civic courage should be trampled upon."

Draskovic, who was one of the leaders of the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1996 and 1997, joined the Milosevic government last year in what his former allies considered an act of opportunism.

Draskovic failed to win support for a compromise on Kosovo that might have prevented NATO's bombing. Since the NATO bombing began, however, he has become an effective spokesman for the Serbian cause.

More than 2,000 Belgraders gathered Wednesday at the city cemetery for a somber farewell to Curuvija, the prominent newspaper publisher gunned down Sunday, news agencies reported.

Curuvija, owner of the independent daily Dnevni Telegraf and other publications, was shot by masked gunmen in the hallway of his apartment building in downtown Belgrade.