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Jackie Rowland reports for BBC News
"The Alliance for Change is trying to put a brave face on"
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Sunday, 19 December, 1999, 01:16 GMT
Milosevic opponents call off rallies

Protestors in Belgrade The protests have failed to shake President Milosevic's rule

By Jacky Rowland in Belgrade

The Serbian opposition has ended its campaign of daily street protests in Belgrade by calling once again for the government to step down and for free elections to be held.

The opposition umbrella group, the Alliance for Change, called a halt to the demonstrations almost three months after they began.

The attendance had declined from about 40,000 in September to only a few hundred in recent days.

Hard decision

It was clearly a difficult decision for the Alliance for Change and one that was opposed by several opposition leaders.

A number of speakers at the final rally said they personally had argued for the demonstrations to continue but that they had bowed to the majority decision.

The crowd they addressed was small but committed.

Several people chanted "traitors, traitors" when the opposition leaders confirmed that the rallies would end.

The Alliance for Change is trying to put a brave face on what amounts to an admission of failure.

Leaders stressed that the end of the demonstrations did not mean the end of the alliance and that they would continue to work for political change in other ways.

A few days ago the Serbian opposition formed a working group with European and American diplomats to look at ways of introducing democratic reforms in the country.

The committee will also draw up programmes of humanitarian aid, including heating oil for the winter.

One opposition leader held out the hope that rallies in Belgrade would resume in the new year.

Opposition divided

The Alliance for Change is in effect leaving the way clear for its rival, the Serbian Renewal Movement led by Vuk Draskovic.

Mr Draskovic has threatened new action against the authorities if they do not agree to early elections at all levels.

But the government of Slobodan Milosevic seems no more worried by Mr Draskovic than it was by the Alliance for Change. Mr Milosevic knows that the opposition is deeply divided and that many people in Serbia do not trust it

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See also:
20 Nov 99 |  Europe
Serb opposition rallies fizzle out
02 Oct 99 |  Europe
Police confront Belgrade marchers
01 Oct 99 |  Europe
Milosevic guard stepped up
01 Oct 99 |  Europe
Analysis: Can Serbia's opposition unite?

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