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Monday, 28 August, 2000, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Former Serbian president still missing
Ivan Stambolic
Stambolic went missing while jogging on Friday
By Central Europe reporter Nick Thorpe

More than 72 hours after his disappearance, there is still no trace of the former Serbian president, Ivan Stambolic.

Mr Stambolic, 64, a former close friend and political associate of the current Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, disappeared while jogging near his home in Belgrade on Friday morning.

He is believed to have been kidnapped.

Less than a month ahead of elections, some observers have been quick to suspect a political motive.

Ousted

Ivan Stambolic rose through the ranks of the Yugoslav Communist Party to become president of Serbia in the 1980s.

Slobodan Milosevic and Ivan Stambolic
Former allies: Milosevic (right) and Stambolic were political partners in the 1980s
But he was forced from power by his former friend and party colleague, Slobodan Milosevic, in 1987, when Mr Milosevic championed causes dear to Serbian nationalists - notably, the position of Serbs in the southern province of Kosovo.

Mr Stambolic left politics to become a successful banker but lost his job in 1997, allegedly because of his criticism of President Milosevic.

On Friday morning he failed to return home from a jog in a nearby park.

An eye-witness said that a white van pulled up beside him and when it drove away Mr Stambolic was no longer there.

Political reasons

Various explanations for his disappearance have been put forward.

His lawyer, Nikola Barovic, said he feared Mr Stambolic been kidnapped for political reasons - a view echoed by several opposition leaders.

Elections will be held in Yugoslavia on 24 September and the country's rulers face a strong challenge from opposition parties.

There has so far been no police comment on the case and no mention in government-controlled media.

But Mr Stambolic's wife Kaca has said she does not suspect a political motive for her husband's disappearance.

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