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Friday, 6 July, 2001, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Belgrade hooked on court performance
Belgrade bar
Milosevic is the hot topic of conversation in Belgrade
By Misa Stojiljkovic in Belgrade

It has now been a week since Slobodan Milosevic was extradited, and if there is a sentence that has marked the last seven days, it would doubtless be: "That's your problem."

It was exactly what the Yugoslav ex-president said on being asked by Judge Richard May if he wanted the indictment read to him. The phrase could be heard in every street in Belgrade.

Milosevic's appearance before the Hague Tribunal was the talk of the town.


Did you hear him? 'That's your problem!' It's going to be his problem soon enough

Office worker in Belgrade
Everybody was commenting on his replies to the judge, his waiving the right to a lawyer, his behaviour and indeed his suit - his tie was the one he wore when he announced the end of the bombing campaign as "a victory over Nato" two years ago.

Office gossip

On my way to the office that day, I overheard a young man sharing his thoughts with a friend: "Did you hear him? 'That's your problem!' It's going to be his problem soon enough."

That reminded me of something a phone-in listener of B92 Radio, the independent Yugoslav station, said on Monday. Explaining how she felt about Milosevic's extradition, she said: "We've finally got rid of him. Now he's their [Western politicians'] problem."

But Milosevic is clearly still going to be a Yugoslav problem, at least for some time to come. The socialist and radical parties' leaders and supporters saw to that.

They held no fewer than three protest rallies during the last week voicing their outrage at the extradition, demanding that both Serbian and Yugoslav Governments resign, and clamouring about early elections on all levels.

Slobodan Milosevic
Mr Milosevic is facing a lengthy trial
Mingling among them I could hear all kinds of comments: "They [Djindjic and Kostunica] betrayed Serbia", "They sold their souls", "The American stooges", "Slobo is our hero", "He [Milosevic] survived the bombing, he'll survive the Hague".

The slogans reminded me that there is still a significant number of people - about one third of the population, opinion polls say - who disagree with the idea of extraditing Yugoslav citizens to the Hague.

Pro-Milosevic protests

Some of the protesters - many of them well into their 50s and 60s - also said it was the end of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, because the day after Milosevic was extradited, Yugoslav Premier Zoran Zizic resigned, thus opening a federal government crisis.

Strangely enough, this subject, together with the danger of a possible split between Serbia and Montenegro, does not seem to affect the ordinary people very much.

But this superficial indifference only means they are tired of the current political issues. It could easily mislead you to the conclusion that Yugoslavia is nothing more than a fond memory.

In fact, the people in Serbia still believe that the union with Montenegro is a better idea than the independence of the two states. When the Yugoslav national water-polo team triumphed at the European championship two weeks ago, tens of thousands were shouting "Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia" in the streets of Belgrade.

Core supporters

So did the much smaller crowd gathered on Monday in front of the Federal Assembly building - but for a different reason. Socialists and radicals thought they were defending their country against the wicked world.

Pro-Milosevic demonstrator
The former president retains some support
They were also shouting "Kill Djindjic" and "Uprising, uprising", but I could tell they could not stir up serious trouble.

Underneath the sound and the fury they looked a pretty sad and depressed lot. With Slobodan Milosevic in the Scheveningen prison, they seemed orphaned and left alone in the world.

On the other side of the street, the passers-by did not appear dejected at all. They would spare the protesters just a glance or two and go their own way, minding their own business.

Watching them as they looked at the crowd and listened to their slogans, I almost heard them thinking to themselves: "That's your problem."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jim Fish in Belgrade
"Many Serbs would like to put the past behind them."
See also:

30 Jun 01 | Europe
Serbs adjust to new reality
30 Jun 01 | Europe
Analysis: Milosevic's legacy
29 Jun 01 | Europe
New mass grave finds in Serbia
29 Jun 01 | Business
Yugoslavia wins $1.3bn aid pledges
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