Opposition plans new rally in Pozarevac

BELGRADE, May 12, 2000 -- (Reuters) Serbia's opposition agreed on Thursday to hold more street protests against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, including one in the strongman's home town.

Opposition leaders said they would try again to stage a demonstration in the eastern town of Pozarevac after one set for Tuesday was put off at short notice.

The opposition had planned a major anti-government rally in Pozarevac on May 9 but cancelled it after police blocked roads to the town and detained activists and independent journalists.

Opposition leaders had scheduled the rally to protest at the alleged beatings of three anti-government activists in a Pozarevac cafe last week by associates of Marko Milosevic, the president's powerful son.

At Thursday's meeting, opposition leaders also agreed on plans for a major protest rally in Belgrade on May 15 under the slogan: "Stop The Terror - For Democratic Elections".

They hope for a repeat of a demonstration in downtown Belgrade on April 14 that gathered more than 100,000 people.

"The rally in Belgrade will be one in a series," said Vojsilav Kostunica of the Democratic Party of Serbia.

"We'll organize them across Serbia with a special emphasis on protest in Pozarevac because that is a question of honor," he told the independent Beta news agency.

A Yugoslav official dismissed opposition criticism of the authorities' moves to prevent the rally in Pozarevac.

Federal Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, a senior official in Milosevic's Socialist party, said police had only acted to protect citizens' safety.

"Police has a series of legal measures at its disposal in the interest of protection of the security of citizens and has to implement them in line with the law," Sainovic told a Socialist Party news conference.

"In that respect traffic controls, identity checks, ownership checks are frequent and are normally conducted everywhere in the world," he said.

Sainovic said the opposition rally had not been approved by local authorities, who were organizing a celebration of World War Two Victory Day on the same day, and that two such events could not take place simultaneously.

The European Union expressed "deep concern" at what it said was mounting government repression of the opposition and independent news organizations in Yugoslavia.

The EU also condemned in a statement issued late on Wednesday what it said were arbitrary arrests of politicians, journalists and students.

But Sainovic insisted that the police action was in line with existing rules, saying he had no knowledge that any journalists had been detained.

Original article