Youth rally in Belgrade fails to ignite masses

BELGRADE, Apr 1, 2000 -- (Reuters) Serbian opposition youth groups held a rally in Belgrade on Friday in a test of support for a major anti-government demonstration planned for next month.

Only around 4,000 people turned up, a sign that public apathy, unease and disappointment with Serbia's feuding opposition leaders are still stronger forces than dissatisfaction with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Aleksandra Bingarac, a young activist of students movement Otpor (Resistance), told the rally the protest had its price.

"Otpor keeps paying the price for resisting oppression. So far, more than 250 of our members have spent over 9,000 hours in jail," she said.

The opposition youths also voiced dissatisfaction with the largely fruitless meetings of their senior leaders, who agreed to unite on January 10 to try to force early elections but have so far failed to put any significant pressure on the government.

"We will no longer tolerate the incapable opposition leaders who do not know how to oust Milosevic," said Dragan Lukic, a young activist of the Movement for Democratic Serbia, party of former Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff Momcilo Perisic who was sacked in 1998.

The opposition leaders have agreed to hold a joint protest in Belgrade on April 14, hoping to attract at least as many people as the last time they held a united demonstration in August. On that occasion they drew a crowd of around 100,000.

They have been campaigning to oust Milosevic since the end of almost three months of NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia over Kosovo last year, blaming him for more than a decade of conflict, isolation and economic crisis.

Original article