CEOL
Young protesters begin march to Belgrade

NOVI SAD, Apr 13, 2000 -- (Reuters) Around 200 young protesters began an 80-km (50-mile) walk from northern Serbia to Belgrade on Thursday afternoon, aiming to arrive there in time for a landmark anti-government rally on Friday.

The young people, from across Serbia, set off from the northern city of Novi Sad shouting for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to be tried for war crimes and carrying a message for the leaders of Serbia's fractured opposition.

"The goal of this action is to send a message to the opposition parties, so they think twice before they play once again with our lives," said Vladimri Jesic, an activist from the student movement Otpor, or Resistance.

"With our example we are going to show everybody that only united we can succeed," he said.

Serbia's squabbling opposition leaders announced in January they had mended fences and decided to hold a joint rally on Friday in Belgrade to try to force Milosevic to hold early elections, which they are convinced they would win.

But many people, even though they are dissatisfied with Milosevic's 10-year-rule, have become so disillusioned by the opposition divisions and previous failed protests that they hold out little hope that this demonstration will achieve anything.

The authorities are nervous nevertheless and some protesters predicted police would, as they have at previous rallies, try to block buses coming to Belgrade by making them go through lengthy technical checks.

"We've decided to walk so we don't have to go through any technical checks," one student told Belgrade radio B292.

The students carried banners showing a clenched fist, the popular symbol of the Resistance movement, as well as those of opposition parties and the Serbian state.

"To the Hague, to the Hague, Slobodan!" they shouted. "Everyone to the attack!".



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