Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

War Propels Serb Regime Milosevic Power Unyielding despite Unrest, Opposition Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

War Propels Serb Regime Milosevic Power Unyielding despite Unrest, Opposition Says

Article excerpt

BELGRADE -- While NATO and Clinton administration officials argue that intensifying bombing of Yugoslavia is undermining President Slobodan Milosevic's grip on power, opposition leaders say that the government continues to draw strength from the war.

The Yugoslav opposition says there is little prospect for widespread political unrest.

Sixty days of NATO bombing has failed to produce serious domestic political opposition to Milosevic's conduct of the war in Kosovo or his rule of a country under siege, opposition leaders say.

Analysts say it has also given the president room to negotiate at a time when converging military and diplomatic pressure have created a sense of an approaching endgame in the conflict.

NATO planes yesterday carried out what the alliance described as the heaviest daily cycle of bombing since the air strikes began March 24. The attacks blacked out 16 Serbian cities, including Belgrade, and rained more than 100 missiles on the southern part of the republic, according to Yugoslav media.

The heavy bombing has coincided with several recent incidents suggesting popular disaffection with the war. In Krusevac last week, for example, about 1,000 army reservists reportedly returned from Kosovo after several days of protests by family members angered by the war and Serbian casualties.

But prominent opposition members doubt that the protests will spread across the country or seriously influence Milosevic's military and diplomatic strategies.

They said it is impossible to mount public protests against Milosevic, because outrage over NATO's campaign is widespread and open dissent is seen as comforting the enemy. Any serious protest against Milosevic would have to wait until after the war, they said.

"Nobody in Serbia is protesting against the war because we didn't start the war," said Vuk Draskovic, the leader of Serbia's largest opposition party, who was deputy prime minister until he was fired last month by Milosevic. "We . . . are not [in] opposition to Serbia; we are fighting for Serbia. Today we are fighters against NATO. Tomorrow we will be fighting against Milosevic. …

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