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Friday, June 4, 1999 Published at 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK

World: Europe

Analysis: Can Milosevic survive?

Reconstruction funds will not be available while Milosevic remains in power

By South East Europe Analyst Gabriel Partos

Kosovo: Special Report
Mr Milosevic's position as the strongman of Serbia has been challenged on several occasions - by domestic protests in 1991 and 1996-7; and by military defeats for the Serbian side in Croatia and Bosnia in 1995.

Yet so far he has always managed to stay on top.

Now with the conflict in Kosovo apparently nearing its conclusion, Mr Milosevic may be facing a greater threat to his position than ever before.

There are two main reasons for this - both linked to Nato's 10-week campaign of air strikes against Yugoslavia.

The BBC's John Simpson in Belgrade: "Serbia's unlikely to be at peace for a long time to come"
Until the bombing began, Serbia - outside of Kosovo at least - had avoided the devastation that had been wrought in Bosnia and Croatia by the wars that Mr Milosevic had stirred up.

Now a large proportion of Serbia's bridges, railways and public buildings are in ruins - due to the president's refusal to accept the Rambouillet peace accords.

In the firing line

Former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic: One man has brought disgrace on our country
In most respects the terms offered at Rambouillet were more favourable to Serbia than the deal Belgrade has now been forced to accept. As a result several opposition politicians have denounced the plan.

[ image:  ]
Mr Milosevic's opponents will be making the most of this devastation and will be blaming it on the President's refusal to deal with Nato earlier.

They will also be able to exploit another weakness in Mr Milosevic's position: while he and others who have been indicted for crimes against humanity remain in office, the West will not be providing reconstruction funds for Serbia.

Bosnia is a clear example - the Bosnian Serbs only began to receive substantial aid last year when a more pragmatic leadership took office.

Vulnerable position

Mr Milosevic's position now looks more vulnerable than at any stage over the past 12 years.

The BBC's Mike Williams takes the temperature on the streets of Belgrade
His greatest source of strength, for the moment, is the lack of any clear alternative.

Apart from a few brief occasions, the opposition has failed over the years to present a united front; and its leaders have often spent more time squabbling amongst themselves than confronting Mr Milosevic.

Even now, the best-known opposition figures may not be in a position to mount a credible challenge.

Opposition prospects

Vuk Draskovic, leader of the conservative Serbian Renewal Movement, was until recently in Mr Milosevic's government, which makes his position rather ambiguous.

[ image: Serbia has paid a heavy price for Milosevic's stand]
Serbia has paid a heavy price for Milosevic's stand
Meanwhile, the chairman of the centrist Democratic Party, Zoran Djindjic, who has been denouncing Mr Milosevic's policy on Kosovo from his hiding place in Montenegro, is weakened by the fact that his party is not represented in the Serbian parliament because it boycotted the last elections.

The absence of a strong, united opposition is clearly a boost to Mr Milosevic's chances of political survival, as well as the fact that his term as president has two more years to run.

But Serbian politics now faces perhaps its most turbulent period in an already dramatic decade, and Mr Milosevic is likely to come under mounting pressure.

That will only increase if the top brass in the security forces decide that Mr Milosevic has not just lost the conflict but may also lose the peace for Serbia if his continued presence in office condemns the country to lasting ruin.

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