Serb opposition leader wants no US help in polls

BELGRADE, Aug 14, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslav presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica said on Sunday he wanted no support from the United States in his election campaign against Slobodan Milosevic.

"Serbia and this unfortunate nation do not need any help coming from the White House," he said.

"I do not want any kind of support that may serve as an excuse for a foreign intervention."

The moderate nationalist leader was addressing the main board of his Democratic Party of Serbia, which unanimously backed his candidacy for the Yugoslav presidency.

Kostunica has been chosen by 15 Serbian opposition parties as their joint candidate to challenge President Milosevic on September 24.

He said he wanted to offer Serbia a path between the two extremes offered by Milosevic and the U.S., both of which he said were "tightening the noose around the neck of the Serbian democratic opposition", while cementing Milosevic's rule.

"We want to offer a third path...Our path must be the one where Serbia was born, Europe," he said.

"We need something else, the kind of assistance that has been coming from Europe for some time, in the form of energy, asphalt... the assistance that helps to ease life of people who suffer from sanctions and NATO bombing," he said, in a reference to the European Union's selective aid to some local authorities in Serbia.

Recent opinion polls have shown that Kostunica, if backed by all opposition parties in Serbia and the westward-looking governing coalition in Montenegro, Serbia's tiny partner republic in federal Yugoslavia, would defeat both Milosevic and his ruling three-party leftist bloc in the polls.


Montenegrin parties, led by President Milo Djukanovic, have decided to boycott the vote but said they might provide support on the ground to the Serbian opposition. "If they boycott the elections I will not be able to accept any kind of support from them," said Kostunica. "That would be a hypocrisy.

"By boycotting the ballot these parties help Milosevic, out of fear that they might lose. They say they are democratic authorities. But a democratic leadership allows itself to be tested in the polls. If it is strong it would win."

If Montenegro changed its mind and decided not to boycott the election, Kostunica said Serbian opposition parties might be prepared to offer candidacy to someone from Montenegro.

"That must be a person who can reconcile divided factions in Montenegro and thus become attractive to voters in Serbia," he said.

Kostunica's campaign will focus on Milosevic and his policies, senior party official Ljiljana Nedeljkovic said.

"We will not blame anyone for having voted for Milosevic in the past, but we will urge everyone not to give him a single vote. There will be no Hollywood-style glamour. Our campaign will be modest because there are no decent people among the rich in Serbia. Our vote will be one for the survival."

Kostunica, 56, who holds a Ph.D. in legal science and is a cat-loving fan of Red Star football club, said there would be no revenge-taking if he won the presidential election.

Asked what he would do if he won the election but Milosevic refused to step down, he said:

"We will implement all institutional and non-institutional methods allowed by the law. There will be no violence, no call for a foreign intervention. We must not once again in this century allow to build a state based on unlawfulness."

Original article