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Tuesday, November 9, 1999 Published at 21:15 GMT

World: Europe

Serb police clash with demonstrators

Police formed a cordon to stop opposition supporters reaching parliament

Riot police in Belgrade have used their batons against about 2,000 student demonstrators who were attempting to march on the Serbian Parliament to press demands for early elections.

Kosovo: Special Report
The police also formed a cordon to prevent a separate group of about 5,000 opposition supporters from reaching the parliament, which earlier accepted a call by the main opposition party, the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), to consider early elections.

The move is an attempt by the opposition party to oust President Slobodan Milosevic.

Baton wielding

The BBC's Jackie Rowland: "The parliament session has been eventful"
Some of the demonstrators were lightly wounded when dozens of police in riot gear struck at least 20 people in the front rows of the protest.

Students began throwing sticks at police who rushed forward wielding their batons.

[ image: Opposition deputies tried to secure an inquiry into an alleged assasination attempt on Mr Draskovic]
Opposition deputies tried to secure an inquiry into an alleged assasination attempt on Mr Draskovic
Other protesters fled, shouting "Slobodan to The Hague," referring to war crimes charges against Mr Milosevic by a United Nations tribunal in the Hague.

"I am again defending my country, this time against the Milosevic regime, which is pushing us into wars we cannot win," one student told Reuters news agency.

He said he had served in Kosovo throughout the air strikes.

Restoring control

"I think this is not going to end. We are going to fight again, but against each other, if they continue with this.

Police again intervened as students threw stones at them during separate incidents throughout the centre of the city.

The Serbian Parliament has also been debating government moves to change the laws dealing with the election and powers of local councils.

Opposition parties have denounced the legislation as a cynical attempt by the governing coalition to restore its control over towns and cities which the opposition won three years ago.

Assasination inquiry

Our correspondent in Belgrade, Jackie Rowland, says the parliament session has been an eventful one.

Deputies from the SPO walked out of the chamber after failing to secure a parliamentary inquiry into an alleged assassination attempt against their leader, Vuk Draskovic.

"By refusing to form an investigation commission the ruling coalition has admitted it is a question of an attempted murder of the SPO president in whose organisation and implementation individuals from the state security took part," deputy Aleksander Cotric said.

Officials deny any involvement in the incident.

But despite that failure, an overwhelming majority of deputies did vote to include the early election proposal on the agenda of the session, the first to be held in more than three months.

The session is due to continue on Wednesday.

Observers say many of the protesters want Mr Milosevic to resign, blaming him for Yugoslavia's isolation and economic problems, but their actions have, so far, failed to present any serious threat to the government.

Kosovo Albanians terrorism charges

Also on Tuesday, a court in Serbia sentenced 12 Kosovo Albanians to 15 years in jail on charges of terrorism.

After the trial, in Prokuplje, near the border with Kosovo, defence lawyers said the men had been found guilty of taking part in an operation of the Kosovo Liberation Army last year, in which four Serbian policemen were killed and several others wounded.

Another group is waiting to be tried later this week, also on terrorism charges.

The two groups are part of the 2,000 Kosovo Albanian prisoners transferred from the province to Serbian jails during Belgrade's withdrawal last June.

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