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The BBC's Jacky Rowland in Belgrade
"President Milosevic has emerged like a phoenix"
 real 28k

Friday, 24 March, 2000, 00:00 GMT
Milosevic still standing strong
President Milosevic
Milosevic seems to have a firm grip on power
By Jacky Rowland in Belgrade

A year ago on Friday, Nato began its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

Its stated objective was achieved - forcing Belgrade to cede control over Kosovo and allowing the Kosovo Albanians to return home.

But the unstated objective - the demise of President Milosevic - has not been. A year on he appears firmly entrenched in power.



In this country people do not like to get instructions from abroad


Miodrag Popovic, Deputy Information Minister
Opposition demonstrations against him have petered out and Western efforts to undermine his rule through economic sanctions have been ineffective.

That is despite the confident predictions by Western officials and local opposition leaders that the president's days were numbered.

Party machine

Through his party machine, Mr Milosevic controls the police, the media and the economy.


protest
Anti-Milosevic protests are declining
The West may not like him, but the Deputy Information Minister, Miodrag Popovic, says that is no reason for the president to step down.

"From London and Washington and from Belgrade the situation is not the same. And people have to stick to reality, and reality is just as it is at the moment and as it was a year ago.

"Mr Milosevic is FRY president. We did have elections. And likewise he's going to stay president as long as the people do want him as a president. And in this country people do not like to get instructions from abroad.

The president has styled himself as rebuilder of the nation, reversing the destruction wrought by Nato.

It is a crude propaganda campaign, says Bratislav Grubacic, a political analyst, but effective nonetheless.

"From a point of view of ordinary people, it looked like the authorities are doing something. So Milosevic had a very strong campaign.

"The main points of his campaign are reconstruction, reforms, development and protection of the territorial integrity of the country. With these four points you know he's really winning the battle so far."

Caricature

The well-known Serbian cartoonist, Corax, has followed the life and times of Slobodan Milosevic for the past 10 years.



Milosevic has no intention of letting go. He's still very strong and he's doing everything to maintain his power. Ruling is the essence of his existence. He will stay in power at any price

Corax
His caricatures have captured the president's triumphs and defeats, although he was banned from Serbian newspapers during the Nato bombing campaign.

What strikes Corax most is Mr Milosevic's instinct for survival.

"Milosevic has no intention of letting go. He's still very strong and he's doing everything to maintain his power. Ruling is the essence of his existence. He will stay in power at any price."

Opposition flounders

Political opposition to Mr Milosevic has more or less withered away.

A collection of weak and feuding opposition leaders still hold strategy meetings but they have failed to agree on any action and the public has little confidence in them.

One of them, Predrag Simic, says Mr Milosevic has been trying to portray the opposition as traitors and Nato spies.

He is now carrying a very vicious propaganda offensive against the opposition, accusing them of the high treason.

At the same time there is now spreading crisis in Kosovo and in Montenegro.

And this offers him the opportunity to manage the crisis and to offer himself as a necessary partner for the West, where the West would be forced to deal with him.

Mr Milosevic thrives in a crisis and there is no shortage of potential dramas in Yugoslavia today.

Many people here blame him for the Nato bombing last year and for much of what the country has suffered since. But in the absence of any credible alternative, for the moment at least he is here to stay.

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Kosovo: One year on
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23 Mar 00 | Europe
Kosovo 'requires patience'
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