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2000: Milosevic quits, street celebrations continue

VIDEO : Crowds celebrate openly on the streets of Belgrade

Slobodan Milosevic, President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has resigned, following mounting pressure to quit over allegations of vote-rigging.

The Yugoslav Constitutional Court, which only yesterday morning annulled the 24 September presidential elections, now admits Vojislav Kostunica was the true winner.

The Yugoslav army has also publicly withdrawn its support for Mr Milosevic, allaying opponents' fears he might still be able to stage a military comeback.

Mr Kostunica met the former president who is reported to have shaken his hand and congratulated him on his victory.

Mr Milosevic's resignation was officially declared to the Yugoslav people in a televised address at 2230 local time.

Standing before a Yugoslav flag, he wished "success to all citizens of Yugoslavia", and spoke of his intention to spend time with his family.

Defiance

But he appeared defiant in the face of those happy to see the back of him when he said he would eventually help his party regain force and "contribute to future prosperity".

Yesterday it is estimated over half a million Serbs descended on the capital of Belgrade in a protest against election rigging that ended in Mr Milosevic's capitulation.

Tonight many were still on the streets celebrating what has so far been a relatively peaceful transition.

Mr Kostunica has urged the Serbian people to drive Mr Milosevic away, but "not with the violence with which he used on us for so many years".

Already, war crimes investigators are pressing for Mr Milosevic's immediate extradition to the Hague to face trial for war crimes.

Speaking in Kosovo, Carla Del Ponte Chief Prosecutor, War Crimes Tribunal said:

"I truly believe that this is the only solution if there is to be a true and lasting peace in the Balkans and if the people of Yugoslavia are to enjoy a democratic existence."

But in Belgrade, ordinary Serbs for the present are more interested in rebuilding their lives after years of economic hardship and war.

Asked what should happen to Mr Milosevic now that he was no longer in power, one woman simply said:

"Actually for me I don't care about him. I care about me, my family and my future."

In Context
Mr Milosevic was extradited to the Hague in 2001. He is the first head of state to be tried at the International Criminal Court.

He was put on trial for war crimes in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia, and for genocide in Bosnia.

Serbia's economy was crippled by nearly 10 years of war and sanctions. It was politically isolated until Milosevic was ousted from power.

Milosevic was Yugoslav president for 13 years during which time he espoused a passionate brand of ethnic Serb nationalism.

Some 250,000 people died in the 1992-1995 Bosnian war and about 20,000 people lost their lives in the 1991 Croatian war.

Milosevic died in a cell at the UN War Crimes Tribunal before the court reached its final verdict. The post mortem examination revealed he had died of a heart attack. His supporters claimed it had been triggered by the wrong medication.


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