Friday, 30 June, 2000Serbian terrorism bill withdrawn
The Yugoslav Government has withdrawn at the last minute a widely criticised draft of a proposed anti-terrorism law.
President Slobodan Milosevic's opponents said the law would be used to stifle dissent.
The Yugoslav parliament, in which the government has a majority, was to have voted on the bill on Friday.
But the Radical Party leader in the governing coalition, Vojislav Seselj, also opposed the draft law, saying it needed more discussion.
A BBC correspondent says it is not clear if Mr Seselj objects to the proposals or is trying to bargain for concessions on other matters.
Stiff jail terms
Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vladan Kutlesic told parliament the bill had been withdrawn due to numerous objections. But "useful suggestions" had been made, and the bill would be redrafted.
The government said the delay would last just a few days.
The proposed anti-terrorism law envisages stiff prison sentences for acts which threaten Yugoslavia's constitutional order and the territorial integrity of the federation or its members - Serbia and Montenegro.
Critics said the law would target groups opposed to Mr Milosevic, such as the student-based Otpor, or Resistance movement.
The draft also warns against actions conducted "with help from abroad" - which would apply to groups funded by the West.
The proposed law was condemned by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who said "its transparent purpose is to provide a respectable cover for repressive policies".
"Unfortunately for him, an anti-terrorism statute authored by a terrorist regime will have no credibility," she added.
Mrs Albright accused Mr Milosevic of trying to wreck democracy in his country and said he should surrender for trial on charges of war crimes in Kosovo.
Analysts say the law is aimed at giving Mr Milosevic a way of staying in power beyond the end of his mandate next year.
Belgrade officials have repeatedly accused Mr Milosevic's foes, especially Otpor, of being involved in "terrorism" supported by Western powers.
There have been a number of assassinations of Serbian officials recently, some apparently linked to gangland activity.