Powerless against government moves

BELGRADE, Jun 5, 2000 -- (Reuters) A senior official in the opposition party that runs Belgrade said on Friday it was powerless to prevent a central government takeover of the city's television channel and public transport.

"What they take by force we cannot get back by force," Miladin Kovacevic, an adviser to Vuk Draskovic, leader of the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement, told a news conference.

"The alternative is to let them take whatever they are taking by force. We are not a party of force."

Serbia's government took control of public transport in Belgrade on Thursday in its second move against the city authorities in two weeks. The government appointed new managers after a closed-door meeting watched by police.

Last month, police carrying out a takeover order signed by two ministers stormed the building that housed the city's main opposition television channel, Studio B, and disabled the independent radio B2-92, based in the same building.

Kovacevic told reporters that "at the moment I cannot say what our next steps will be".

His words contrasted sharply with previous threats by the fiery Draskovic to bring all of Belgrade's residents onto the streets if the government touched Studio B.

Around 30,000 turned out for an initial protest, but the numbers dropped off sharply when Draskovic unexpectedly told the crowd to calm down after two evenings of clashes with police.

Some opposition leaders urged city authorities to block government buildings with public buses until Studio B was returned to its owners. Opposition sources said the city council had refused, fearing reprisals.

Zlatan Perucic, an official of President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party installed in the City Transport Company, said on Friday the government had had to intervene.

"During the last few days, some opposition leaders called for a public transport stoppage and a blockade of roads to provoke larger unrest to punish the citizens of Belgrade for not turning up at the opposition rallies," he said.

Kovacevic was asked if the Serbian Renewal Movement feared the government might take over other city-run companies and effectively take control of the city itself.

"If it's again done by force we cannot do anything," he replied. "We don't have force at our disposal."

Zoran Milosevic, another of the managers installed at the transport company, said the army and police had promised to supply extra buses to improve transport in the city.

Original article