Serbia offers flats to woo electorate

BELGRADE, May 16, 2000 -- (Reuters) Serbia launched a cross-country campaign on Monday to build flats for young professionals, police and army members in a bid to win support for polls due in November.

The project to build 100,000 flats for young couples and members of the Yugoslav Army and Serbian police over the next 10 years was initiated by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Ten thousand of the flats are to be completed this year.

The work will be financed by the government, mostly through the Serbian Reconstruction Agency set up after NATO's air strikes on Yugoslavia ended last June.

Wars, sanctions and deep economic decline have forced some 300,000 young people to leave the country since the violent break-up of the former Balkan federation in 1991, analysts say.

At a ceremony in the southern town of Vranje on Monday, Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic lashed out at the opposition while praising his cabinet's results in the reconstruction of the country since the end of the air war.

"Everything (the opposition) has done and is doing shows they are absolute traitors, foreign mercenaries and criminals and that is why there is no place for them in the unified front of defense, reconstruction and development," he said.

Officials of Milosevic's Socialists and his wife's neo-Marxist Yugoslav Left echoed the accusations in 18 other towns in a campaign against the opposition that has gathered pace after the murder of the Vojvodina provincial government head and prominent Socialist Party official over the weekend.

The authorities blamed the opposition for the killing of Bosko Perosevic, shot by a lone assassin in Novi Sad on Saturday, and said it was a terrorist act against the country.

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