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Wednesday, May 26, 1999 Published at 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK

World: Europe

Serbia: Cracks begin to show

By Gabriel Partos, South-east Europe analyst

A visit to London this week by the President of the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, served as a reminder of the Montenegrin leadership's firm opposition to Serbia's policies in Kosovo.

Kosovo: Special Report
But Montenegro is not the only source of opposition to Mr Milosevic within Yugoslavia. Dissent has also started to emerge within Serbia itself.

At the beginning of last week, thousands of angry mothers and wives of reservists from the towns of Krusevac, Aleksandrovac and Cacak demanded that the local reservists should be allowed to return home.

These demonstrations coincided with the first reports of apparent mass desertions from within the Yugoslav army.

[ image: Looking for support: the Montenegin president in London]
Looking for support: the Montenegin president in London
According to media reports from Montenegro, over 1,000 reservists returned to the towns where the protests were taking place.

This week, there were fresh demonstrations in Krusevac when the army tried to serve new call-up papers on reservists who had returned home and handed in their weapons and uniforms. Reports from the town say the situation remains tense.

[ image: Montenegro has taken in more than 100,000 refugees]
Montenegro has taken in more than 100,000 refugees
The demonstrations over the past 10 days are the first sign of public opposition to the war in Kosovo.

All this is, for the moment, on a relatively small scale. But it seems to form part of a gradual erosion of support for the Milosevic administration.

During the first month of Nato's air strikes there appeared to be complete national unity in the face of an attack from the outside. But a month ago, opposition and ex-opposition politicians began to register their disagreement with Mr Milosevic's policies.

One of those who voiced their criticism, Vuk Draskovic, was sacked from his post as deputy prime minister of Yugoslavia.

Another prominent figure, Zoran Djindjic, has taken refuge in Montenegro where he's forged a close alliance with the Montenegrin leadership.

Waiting for a new era

Both politicians appear to be positioning themselves for what they see as the forthcoming post-Milosevic era, believing perhaps that Mr Milosevic cannot survive politically a defeat at Nato's hands.

Certainly, Mr Draskovic, in an interview with the French newspaper, Le Parisien, on Tuesday was calling for fresh elections once the conflict over Kosovo is over - which he expects to be very soon.

There are few signs yet that the ambitions of opposition politicians and the spontaneous anti-war feelings of the demonstrators are coming together in some kind of alliance, although Mr Djindjic's Democratic Party has been giving its support to the protestors.

But the political situation in Serbia appears to be more volatile than it's been for a very long time. And President Milosevic may find it more difficult to keep his position when peace comes than he has done at a time of war.

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