YU army warns opposition over 'threats'
BELGRADE, May 5, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Yugoslav army (VJ) lashed out at Serbia's opposition on Thursday, warning that it would not tolerate any threats against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
In an unprecedented statement read on state television, army headquarters said there was no doubt that state authorities had an obligation to take legal steps against those who made such threats.
"Brutal attacks on the institution and personality of the president of Yugoslavia are culminating in primitive threats of brutal physical liquidation," said the army statement.
The statement did not say what threats it was referring to.
But it seemed to involve a speech by the leader of the opposition League of Vojvodina Socialdemocrats, Nenad Canak, at an opposition rally in Belgrade on April 14.
"After this, the regime will explore reactions to see whether it's wise to arrest me," Canak told Reuters in Novi Sad, the capital of Serbia's northern Vojvodina province.
"If they don't arrest me, they will show weakness and if they do, different problems will occur. I'm sure the regime knows that it will be a turning point after which there will be a lot of non-parliamentary methods of struggle," he added. Yugoslav top officials had earlier attacked Canak for telling the crowd of more than 100,000 that Milosevic should be tried and punished for the disastrous results of his policies.
The army statement said: "The VJ must objectively react to such attacks and threats, which are aimed at undermining the defense and threatening the security of the country."
It also appeared to single out two opposition parties led by former army generals Momcilo Perisic and Vuk Obradovic.
Milosevic fired Perisic in 1998 as army chief-of-staff over differences about military confrontation with NATO over Kosovo.
Obradovic resigned as army spokesman early in the violent break-up of the former Yugoslav federation in 1992.
"Especially prominent in unprincipled speculation and unfounded criticism (of Milosevic) are incompetent leaders of certain marginal political parties and some former VJ employees," said the statement.