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The BBC's Nick Thorpe reports
"Opposition leaders now face the dilemma of how to maintain momentum"
 real 28k

Monday, 15 May, 2000, 19:45 GMT 20:45 UK
Serbian opposition rally ends peacefully
Belgrade rally
The crowd gave an ovation to an Otpor representative
Thousands of Serbian opposition supporters have marched in central Belgrade in protest at President Slobodan Milosevic.

The rally passed peacefully, though there were reports of widespread arrests beforehand and attempts to prevent opposition activists from taking part.

We should cancel obedience to the terror, lawlessness and crimes [of the state]

Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic
More than 15,000 people are reported to have attended the rally. They blame President Milosevic for Serbia's isolation and economic problems, and are calling for free elections and an end to political violence.

The rally was addressed by several leading opposition figures, including Branko Ilic, a member of the Otpor (Resistance) movement.

The authorities had warned that members of Otpor, which they accuse of being a terrorist group, would be arrested if they attended the rally.

Disobeying the state

At the rally, Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement, called on Serbs to start with "overall disobedience", thereby avoiding "uprising in the country".

"We should cancel obedience to the terror, lawlessness and crimes," he told the crowd.

Mr Draskovic also called on "judges, prosecutors, but also policemen and army officers" to become disobedient to a government he described as "murders and terrorists".

Zoran Djindjic of the Democratic Party told protestors that the rally showed unreserved support for the members of Otpor, and "a message of warning to the regime".

The regime is not afraid of us from Otpor but of this fist, since it means solidarity, people's rebellion against terror, fascism and madness

Otpor member Branko Ilic
Mr Djindjic appeared on the stage wearing an Otpor T-shirt emblazoned with the symbol of the movement, a fist.

The rally gave its biggest ovation to Mr Ilic as he climbed to the stage, and urged the opposition leaders to show real solidarity.

"The regime is not afraid of us from Otpor but of this fist, since it means solidarity, people's rebellion against terror, fascism and madness," Mr Ilic said.

The government's warning that Otpor members would be arrested did make an impression. In contrast to recent rallies, Otpor flags were not prominently displayed at the rally.

The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Belgrade says there is now a momentum of protest in Serbia fuelled by the latest crackdown on opposition activists outside Belgrade and on the independent media.

Opposition arrests

Non-government media reported that police detained a number of opposition activists and Otpor members throughout Serbia on Sunday.

Most of them were reported to have been released after several hours of interrogation, but many went into hiding.

The last opposition rally was cancelled after police intervention
The last opposition rally was blocked by police
Meho Omerovic, a member of the Social Democracy party and a rally organiser, told the Beta news agency that police were preventing opposition supporters from reaching Belgrade for the rally.

Mr Omerovic said routes out of nearby towns and into Belgrade were blocked.

Increased tension

The rally was held in Republic Square, the site of many similar protests in the past.

But opposition leaders said that the atmosphere of tension in which this demonstration took place - under the slogan "Stop the Terror For Free Elections" - was completely different.

The government is linking the assassination of Perosevic to the opposition
This rally replaced one scheduled for last Tuesday in the town of Pozarevac.

The opposition reluctantly called that one off at the last moment after police stopped their supporters reaching the town.

The situation was made more tense by the assassination on Saturday of Bosko Perosevic, a leading official of the ruling party, and official allegations that his killer was linked to the opposition.

Opposition leaders in Yugoslavia have accused the government of preparing for a violent confrontation by attempting to implicate them in the assassination.

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13 Apr 00 | Europe
Serb media defies government
18 Mar 00 | Europe
Serbia clamps down on media
11 Jan 00 | Europe
Serbian opposition unites
21 Nov 99 | Europe
Serb demos to continue
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