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Friday, July 2, 1999 Published at 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK

World: Europe

Milosevic hunts for coalition partners

Opposition to Milosevic has been mounting in the past week

By the BBC's South-East Europe analyst Gabriel Partos

Slobodan Milosevic has launched consultations with a range of political parties to bring them into the Yugoslav Government, as his opponents prepare for another demonstration.

Kosovo: Special Report
But the Yugoslav President's attempt to broaden his coalition has been rebuffed by some of the key players.

There is growing public resentment at President Milosevic's continued rule in the wake of Serbia's defeat by Nato in the Kosovo conflict.

On Tuesday, opposition parties held their first big rally since the end of fighting when their supporters met in the town of Cacak to demand Mr Milosevic's resignation.

Two days later, it was the turn of old age pensioners to protest in Belgrade.

Opposition groups are also planning to hold a demonstration on Friday in another stronghold of anti-government feeling, the northern city of Novi Sad.


It is not yet clear whether these protests remain isolated expressions of discontent with the regime or whether they will gather momentum and turn into a nationwide demand for change.

[ image: Mr Draskovic wants the Montenegrins in the coalition]
Mr Draskovic wants the Montenegrins in the coalition
One thing that is certainly helping Mr Milosevic consolidate his position is the continued reluctance of the main opposition parties to work together.

The anti-government demonstrations, which are being organised by the umbrella-group, the Alliance for Change, have been shunned by the conservative Serbian Renewal Movement.

Its leader, the former deputy prime minister, Vuk Draskovic, was sacked from the Yugoslav Government after he accused his colleagues of lying during the conflict with Nato.

President Milosevic is now trying to entice Mr Draskovic back into the government, which brings together Serbian and Montenegrin representatives, so that he can present an image of post-war national unity.

But Mr Draskovic has declined this offer - at least for the time being - saying that he will rejoin the coalition only if it includes the representatives of the Montenegrin Government.

Montenegrin boycott

Mr Draskovic has said that there will be no federal government unless it is a government agreed upon on the basis of democratic principles by both Serbia and Montenegro.

By making this condition, Mr Draskovic is, in effect, lining up behind the Montenegrin President, Milo Djukanovic, whose party has been boycotting federal Yugoslav institutions for over a year on the grounds that they had been constituted without taking into account the wishes of the Montenegrin authorities.

Given Montenegro's opposition to Mr Milosevic's policies, Mr Djukanovic's party stayed away from Thursday's talks in Belgrade to broaden the federal government - a move party officials described as an attempt by Mr Milosevic to preserve his position through making cosmetic changes.

As a result, Mr Milosevic has little scope for enlarging his coalition which is a mixture of his ex-communist Socialist Party, his wife's neo-communists and Montenegrin opponents of President Djukanovic.

The only possible newcomer to the federal government is the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party whose leader, Vojislav Seselj, pledged that his party would leave the Serbian Government if Nato troops moved into Kosovo.

Mr Seselj has since gone back on his word, and he now says that President Milosevic's downfall would lead to chaos.

Mr Seselj and his associates are not just staying in the Serbian cabinet but are also preparing to take up the offer to move into the Yugoslav Government.

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