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Wednesday, July 7, 1999 Published at 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK

World: Europe

Zoran Djindjic: Serbian pragmatist

Zoran Djindjic returns to Serbia to lead anti-Milosevic campaign

Zoran Djindjic - who is now challenging Slobodan Milosevic for the leadership of Serbia - first hit the headlines on the eve of national elections in 1993.

Kosovo: Special Report
Securing the Democratic Party leadership in an internal "coup", he then confounded Belgrade's political analysts by winning seats for himself and another 30 party members in the Serbian parliament.

He was born on August 1 1952. According to his official biography, he first landed in trouble because of student politics.

When student leaders from Zagreb and Ljubljana attempted to set up an autonomous student organization, the group was sentenced to one year of imprisonment.

After spending time in prison, he completed his post-graduate studies in Germany and later returned to Serbia to teach philosophy in the 1980s.

Nationalist and Pragmatist

Mr Djindjic was among the founders of the centrist Democratic Party in 1990 and two years later took over its leadership.

[ image: Welcomed by demonstrators at Uzice]
Welcomed by demonstrators at Uzice
A pragmatic politician in tune with the mood of the time, Mr Djindjic gradually pushed the Democrats towards a more nationalist stance.

When the Bosnian Serb leadership was first presented with a Nato ultimatum to stop their bombardment of Sarajevo in early 1994, he travelled to Pale to meet with Radovan Karadzic and other leaders to show, as he put it, his solidarity with the Bosnian Serbs.

After the Dayton peace accords on Bosnia, Mr Djindjic moderated his nationalist rhetoric and concentrated instead on the need to establish a genuine democracy, the rule of law and a market economy in Serbia in place of President Milosevic's neo-communist regime.

That policy, and his brief alliance with the conservative Mr Draskovic in the Zajedno (Together) coalition, produced impressive municipal election victories in late 1996.

Mr Djindjic was elected Belgrade's first non-communist mayor since 1945.

But the collapse of Zajedno due to personal rivalry between its two leaders destroyed what had been the opposition's biggest challenge to Mr Milosevic. Mr Djindjic then boycotted the subsequent presidential and parliamentary elections.

As a result, he and his party moved out of the limelight.

Stand on Kosovo

The conflict over Kosovo provided Mr Djindjic with a fresh opportunity. His key policy line is that President Milosevic must be ousted.

After he was denounced as a traitor in the Serbian state-controlled media, Mr Djindjic took refuge in Montenegro during the Nato strikes against Yugoslavia, and there forged a close alliance with Montenegro's pro-Western president, Milo Djukanovic.

He also travelled widely, making friends in Europe's political circles.

His image is modern and cosmopolitan: a relatively youthful intellectual with a grasp of technology as well as democratic principles.

He presents himself as a substitute for Mr Milosevic with whom ordinary Serbs can identify - and who is acceptable to the international community.

He has capitalised on the inability of the other main opposition leader, Vuk Draskovic, to decide whether he is for or against Mr Milosevic.

But while seeking to exploit his image as someone who can deal with the West and bring about desperately-needed reconstruction aid for Serbia, he has also had to fend off critics who denounce him as a puppet of Nato and accuse him of evading military service.

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