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Friday, June 4, 1999 Published at 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK

World: Europe

Backlash fears for Milosevic

Vojislav Seselj: Denounced acceptance of Nato forces

By BBC News Online's Dominic Casciani

Speculation is growing that President Slobodan Milosevic could face a backlash within Yugoslavia over his acceptance of an international peace plan to end the Kosovo crisis.

Kosovo: Special Report
Correspondents in Belgrade have reported that ordinary people are backing the deal but asking why they have endured almost 10 weeks of air strikes.

While reports from Belgrade describe political leaders and the public welcoming a prospective end to Nato air strikes, hard-line nationalists have denounced as a betrayal a deal which allows a substantial Nato force into the province.

These traditional allies are the same politicians who rallied to Mr Milosevic, now an indicted war crimes suspect, when he emerged as a Serb nationalist leader a decade ago.

The BBC's Mike Williams takes the temperature on the streets of Belgrade
The first signs of tension over the deal came when journalists were barred from the Serb Assembly's debate of the proposals brought to Belgrade on Thursday by the Russian and EU envoys, Viktor Chernomyrdin and Martti Ahtisaari.

Previous assembly sessions, including a debate which rejected a Kosovo peace deal the day before air strikes began, were televised nationally.

The assembly voted 136-74 in favour of the plan in a meeting which deputies described as stormy.

[ image:  ]
Critically, the second largest party, the nationalist Serb Radical Party, voted en masse against the deal.

Its hardline leader and Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said that his party would quit President Milosevic's government if Nato troops were allowed to enter Kosovo.

Mr Seselj, at times both a bitter enemy and vital ally to the president, said: "We will not wait in the government for an eventual deployment of Nato aggressor forces.

"We voted against this deal because we believe that the withdrawal of our troops from Kosovo amid NATO criminal bombardment is unacceptable.

"We will never accept the so-called agreement from Rambouillet, which was never signed."

Opposition voices

While the president still commands the army and paramilitary police forces, opposition groups in Belgrade were quick to speak out.

[ image:  ]
Vuk Draskovic, the sacked former Yugoslav deputy prime minister, told the BBC that the Serb people had paid a "terrible price" during the conflict - and he called for politicians to build a "new Serbia" which was reconciled with former enemies and prepared to co-operate with other nations.

Milan Panic, the former Yugoslav prime minister, described Mr Draskovic as a rallying point for groups opposed to Mr Milosevic.

He branded the president a war criminal and predicted that Serbs would help bring him to justice.

"Mr Milosevic deprived us of our future and prosperity," he told the BBC. "Countries that were once behind us, like Poland, are now properous.

Milan Panic: "One man has brought disgrace on our country"
"One single man brought our country to a position of disgrace."

Meanwhile, the pro-democracy Civic Alliance demanded Mr Milosevic's resignation, blaming him for "wrong decisions".

Party spokesman Goran Svilanovic said that the terms of peace were the same as the ultimatum laid down by Nato before the start of bombing on 24 March.

[ image: Vuk Draskovic:
Vuk Draskovic: "Time for new Serbia"
He said that hundreds of innocent deaths could have been avoided.

"They died with belief that they are defending the high principles and the freedom of the country," he said.

"Unfortunately, that was not the case."

Opposition Democratic Party Chairman Zoran Djindjic welcomed the decision but described the entire Kosovo crisis as a "huge misfortune".

"The only thing that is debatable is the timing. Was it necessary to go through 70 days of bombing before accepting something which every normal person knew from the beginning would have to be accepted.

"Now comes a second phase, which entails bringing to account those people, who - with the help of equally unreasonable people among the international community - brought us into this situation.

"This will be an internal Serbian matter, but it will be very difficult, very painful in every respect."

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