Ruling Serbs reject opposition election call

BELGRADE, Jan 14, 2000 -- (Reuters) Serbia's ruling coalition on Thursday rejected the latest calls from the Serbian opposition to hold early general elections and said regular polls would be held only when due.

Serbia's fragmented opposition united on Monday on a plan to launch joint anti-government demonstrations if Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic ignored their demand for early elections at all levels by the end of April.

The opposition had said they would stage the first street protest in support of their demands in March.

A spokesman for Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) at a weekly news conference ridiculed the opposition demand.

"It is ridiculous to seek elections in an election year...I do not understand how 16 parties, of which only one or two are in the parliament, can meet to demand elections," Ivica Dacic said.

Federal elections covering Yugoslavia's constituent republics of Serbia and Montenegro are due this year, as are municipal elections in Serbia. Elections for the Serbian republic parliament and president are due in 2001 and 2002 respectively.

The opposition argues that an early general poll would pave the way for democratic forces to legally take over from Milosevic, who they say is pushing the country further into isolation.

They say the vote would also clear obstacles to improving Serbia's ties with its small but increasingly independent partner Montenegro, which has said would not take part in any joint federal ballot organized by Milosevic and his allies.

At a separate news conference, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party and Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister, Vojislav Seselj, said only regular elections due this year would be held.

Seselj said his party wanted local elections to be held in the spring, while a vote for the Yugoslav parliament had to be held by November 2.

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