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Serb police issue warrants for two Otpor activists

BELGRADE, May 16, 2000 -- (Reuters) Serb police issued arrest warrants on Monday for two activists of the opposition movement Otpor allegedly linked with the weekend murder of a senior government figure, state news agency Tanjug said.

Warrants were issued for Stanko Lazendic, 27, and Milos Gagic, 28, who are "in flight and believed to be in Bosnia", Tanjug quoted the police as saying.

Bosko Perosevic, head of the government in Serbia's northern Vojvodina province and a high-ranking official of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's party, was shot dead by a gunman in the provincial capital of Novi Sad on Saturday.

The police arrested the assassin on the spot and said he was an activist of Otpor and of Serbia's main opposition party, the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO). Both Otpor and SPO have denied the man had anything to do with them.

Some 7,000 people including senior government officials attended Perosevic's funeral in Novi Sad on Monday amid high security. Before the funeral his body lay in state for three hours and people waited in long lines to pay their respects.

The opposition-run city hall held a memorial ceremony at which where speakers praised Perosevic's political tolerance.

Novi Sad police said they were "taking all steps to find all those who incited and inspired the heinous act", Tanjug reported.

Up to 25,000 opposition supporters rallied in the Yugoslav capital on Monday, accusing the authorities of seeking civil war and showing their support for Otpor and its activists.

Zoran Djindjic, the leader of the Democratic Party, said Otpor was "the most threatened political organization in the country".

An Otpor activist in Novi Sad acknowledged that the two wanted men were members of the organization but said they had not been in the town for a month. He confirmed they were in Bosnia.

"The police statement is nonsense...They are visiting their families in the Bosnian Serb republic," Vladimir Jesic told Reuters.

"They have nothing to do with the killing of Perosevic just like Otpor as an organization has nothing to do with it," he said.

Ivan Marovic an activist of the organization in Belgrade earlier accused the authorities of a set-up and said that "everyone knows Otpor uses non-violent methods".

"We will never apply violent methods in our political fight," he told a news conference earlier on Monday.

On Sunday the Novi Sad police questioned several Otpor activists and Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic said authorities would take actions against the organization if it "acted in the streets against the state".

Perosevic's death was the latest in a series of high-profile killings in Serbia, including Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic in February and the deputy interior minister in 1997. Both of those murders are still unsolved.



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