Serb opposition in Vojvodina wants republic status

NOVI SAD, Yugoslavia, Feb 27, 2000 -- (Reuters) The main Serb opposition party in Serbia's northern province of Vojvodina called on Saturday for it to become a republic to boost stability in the Balkans.

Nenad Canak, leader of the League of Vojvodina's Social Democrats (LSDV), said making the province a republic would prevent the disintegration of Serbia and help Belgrade retain its other province, Kosovo, in the south, whose ethnic Albanian majority wants independence.

"The Republic of Vojvodina is needed as a factor of peace and stability in the Balkans, it is needed to give a chance to a federal Serbia," Canak told a party conference.

Both Vojvodina, which is mainly Serb-populated, and Kosovo enjoyed broad autonomy until 1989 when this was abolished by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Vojvodina's opposition politicians have accused Belgrade of controlling all money flows and impoverishing the province despite its oil resources and rich agriculture.

But Canak stressed he was not advocating secession from Serbia.

"We are not for Vojvodina's secession from Serbia, but for the redefinition of mutual relations. We demand to control our property and destiny."

He accused Milosevic of being "a killer and a war criminal," and warned that the Yugoslav president was "preparing an internal armed conflict in Montenegro by arming his supporters in the north" of the coastal republic.

Montenegro is Serbia's smaller sister republic in the Yugoslav federation, but has threatened to secede if mutual relations are not redefined to give it equal status.

Its pro-western leadership has distanced itself from Belgrade policies since NATO's 11-week bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 over Milosevic's repression of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Serbs form 70 percent of Vojvodina's population of more than two million. The province is home to 27 different nationalities, including ethnic Hungarians who make up 15 percent.

Original article