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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Milosevic Seeks Split In Opposition Ranks




BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Following calls that he step down, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's government invited selected parties Wednesday to join in rebuilding the country in an apparent bid to exploit divisions in opposition ranks and sideline those calling for his resignation.


The UN's top human rights official, meanwhile, visited Kosovo as the bodies of more massacre victims were discovered near the southwestern city of Prizren. Mary Robinson said she was more worried about human rights abuses in Kosovo now "than I was before" going there.


In The Hague, meanwhile, the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal said international investigators are uncovering widespread efforts to destroy evidence of atrocities in Kosovo.


Yugoslavia's prime minister, Momir Bulatovic, invited all political parties represented in the national parliament to a meeting Thursday to discuss how to cooperate in rebuilding the country after the devastation of the 78-day NATO bombing campaign.


The invitation was issued one day after about 10,000 people rallied in the city of Cacak, shouting slogans demanding Milosevic resign. The rally, staged by the Alliance for Change, was the first such protest since the end of the bombing.


Parties in the Alliance, however, are not represented in parliament and were not invited to the meeting. Major parties on the invitation list include the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party; the moderate Serbian Renewal Movement; and reformists in Yugoslavia's smaller republic Montenegro. The Montenegro reformists f the Democratic Party of Socialists f immediately rejected the offer.


Although supportive of democracy, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Vuk Draskovic, has refused to join the Alliance. By extending an invitation to Draskovic's party but not other pro-democracy groups, Milosevic appeared to be trying to exploit divisions within the opposition.


In Kosovo, meanwhile, new evidence emerged of the horrors of the Serbian crackdown on the province's ethnic Albanians, which ended with the arrival of international peacekeepers June 12.


The spokesman for the German contingent, Lieutenant Colonel Dietmar Jeserich, said troops found the bodies of 78 massacre victims Wednesday in a village 15 kilometers northwest of Prizren. Jeserich said the bodies were discovered in the village of Celine but no further details would be available before investigators reached the site Thursday.


War crimes tribunal spokesman Paul Risley told reporters in The Hague that investigators have found "very clear signs that mass grave sites have been tampered with" and "eyewitness accounts that the bodies of victims have been removed from sites."


They have also uncovered evidence that Serb forces burned documents that could point to a systematic campaign of war crimes by Yugoslav forces.


The tribunal already has charged Milosevic and four senior aides with orchestrating atrocities by Serbian forces in Kosovo. None are in custody.


In Pristina, Robinson warned that ethnic hatreds remain high despite the presence of peacekeepers.


"This is the worst time, the most volatile time," Robinson said after visiting the site of a mass killing at Matigan. She also visited a camp at Kosovo Polje, where about 4,000 Gypsies have sought shelter from marauding ethnic Albanians who accuse them of collaborating with the Serbs.


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights described their condition as "appalling" and urged more international help for Kosovo to prevent a "new form of ethnic cleansing."