DUSAN STOJANOVICYU president condemns Nato air campaign
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (May 29, 2000)- Amid new arrests of domestic opponents Monday, President Slobodan Milosevic urged the world to buck NATO "aggression" and American domination as he reopened a bridge bombed last year in NATO air campaign.
Thousands of cheering and flag-waving supporters were bused in from across Serbia, the larger half of the Yugoslav federation, to the northern city of Novi Sad for Milosevic's inauguration of the rail bridge.
"The NATO aggression was one of the cruelest, worst (acts of) violence on humanity in the second half of the 20th century," Milosevic said, referring to the 78 days of allied airstrikes that ended his crackdown in Kosovo. "The entire world must know it shall be a target - as Serbia was a target - if it doesn't resist violence and humiliation" by the United States, he said.
The NATO campaign made Milosevic effectively concede Kosovo to the alliance and a subsequent U.N. peace mission. Milosevic and four of his closest associates have since been indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal for atrocities in the southern Serbian province, where ethnic Albanians make up a majority.
Since the airstrikes ended last June, economically troubled Serbia has struggled to rebuild. But Milosevic termed the pace of reconstruction an "impressive" achievement, accomplished with "incredible speed, unrecorded to date in modern Europe."
Meanwhile, the crackdown on Milosevic critics continued Monday. Serbian police rounded up dozens more members of the popular anti-government student group Otpor, or Resistance, as well as opposition parties' activists. The government says the opposition members are terrorists in the pay of Western powers who want to overthrow Milosevic.
Four student activists were arrested in Nis, Serbia's third-largest city, after police burst into their homes early Monday morning, Ivan Marovic of Otpor told The Associated Press. The students were released three hours later.
Nine other Otpor members were arrested before dawn in Subotica, a city in northern Serbia, Marovic said. One was released, while the other eight remained in police custody Monday afternoon. Another Otpor activist was arrested in the central Serbian town of Krusevac.
Police also briefly detained 29 activists Monday from the opposition League of Social Democrats as they distributed leaflets in Novi Sad, where Milosevic opened the bridge. The leaflets read: "Down with Milosevic."
Arrests have become routine in Milosevic's latest crackdown on dissent, which also has included the closure of major newspapers and other media. More than 700 Otpor activists have been detained for questioning over the past few months. Some have been beaten.
In Moscow on Monday, a delegation of Serbian opposition leaders met with officials from Russia's Foreign Ministry to try to persuade the Kremlin to drop its support for Milosevic.
The group appeared to fall short of that goal, and it did not get to meet with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. But the opposition leaders did meet Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Avdeyev, and afterward, the Russian Foreign Ministry called for Milosevic's government to return an opposition-controlled TV station that was seized last week.