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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 06:59 GMT 07:59 UK
Milosevic supporters stand by their man
A small rally of Milosevic supporters in Belgrade wave placards
In Serbia Milosevic still has small pockets of support

For the last five months the trial of the former Yugoslav president has been beamed around the world, and it is watched keenly in Yugoslavia.

At home, the former Serbian strongman still maintains a fair amount of support - especially among rural dwellers.

Milosevic supporters view his trial as a farce.

It is failing to deliver, they say, any evidence against their ex-president, and they feel he should be allowed to head back to Yugoslavia.

Milosevic supporter carries a portrait of him at a Belgrade rally
Political commentators are seeing a slow anti-Hague feeling growing

The latest test of pro-Milosevic feeling came in Belgrade this week.

For the first time his supporters organised a rally outside the US and British embassies in the city.

Ever since they were involved in the bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo conflict in 1999, both countries have been a focus of Mr Milosevic's supporters' anger.

At the rally there were just a few hundred people. But those who were there, were unanimous in their support.

One woman told me: "You have been collecting proofs for ten years, but you haven't found anything, so it's very ridiculous for you, for Western countries."

"The popularity of Milosevic rose every time during the war, and now you help his popularity."

Quiet support

It is something many here will tell you, and not just his supporters. Many feel Milosevic is managing to defend himself well.


I wasn't his supporter, but now in someway I can see that some things he has done (were) good

Belgrade student
They will also tell you the prosecution is failing to adequately build up a file against Mr Milosevic. And that, they say, is turning them against the whole trial itself.

Vuk is a 24-year-old law student at Belgrade University. What he says you will hear repeated across this city.

"I wasn't his supporter, but now in someway I can see that some things he has done (were) good."

Another student, 21-year-old Ana feels very much the same: "It was a war and we killed them and they killed us and I don't feel we should have all the blame for that, and that is what (the) Hague does."

"It's so unfair. Our people see the West as unfair."

Anti-Western sentiment

Neither Vuk nor Ana support Mr Milosevic, but both voice the concerns of a growing number of people here.

Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic has been accused of war crimes - but his policies could still take shape in Serbia

What is interesting is that those experiencing such feelings are young and old alike.

Slowly political commentators here see an anti-Hague feeling growing.

It is important because it is helping to re-enforce the kind of stereotypes about the West that Mr Milosevic himself once voiced.

One journalist, Milos Vasic, has been working the Serbian political scene for around 30 years.

A senior correspondent on a national weekly, Vreme, the Yugoslav equivalent of Time or Newsweek magazine, he feels the prosecutors in the Hague have failed to make a coherent case against the former president.

Nationalism growing

That in turn he says is fuelling anti-Western feeling and suspicion.

"I think the prosecutors office is running a serious danger of beginning to turn the people of Serbia towards those ethno-centric, nationalist even chauvinist currents active at the moment on the Serbian political scene," he said.

It is possible he argues, that in the run up to Serbia's elections - due in October - political parties could use the perceived failings of the Hague to tap into an anti-West feeling, and foster some form of mainstream nationalism once again amongst the voting public of Serbia.

It is unlikely that the dream a few here hold, that one day Slobodan Milosevic might take power again, will happen.

However, it is not impossible that his policies, in some shape or form at least, could return to Serbia.


At The Hague

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26 Apr 02 | Europe
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