Milosevic Makes First Public Appearance Since Losing Power

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at
Sat Nov 25 16:13:57 MST 2000

November 25, 2000
Milosevic Makes First Public Appearance Since Losing Power

Filed at 2:05 p.m. ET

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) -- A defiant Slobodan Milosevic appeared in public Saturday
for the first time since his ouster, depicting Yugoslavia's new pro-democratic leaders
as traitors paid by the West to destroy the country.

Milosevic's harshly worded opening speech at his Socialist Party special congress
that the former Yugoslav president intends to regain power with the same vintage themes
he used while leading the country into four Balkan wars and economic decline.

Milosevic, who has been indicted for war crimes and is accused by many Yugoslavs of
causing economic misery during his 13-year reign, said the country had plunged into a
deep crisis since his ouster in a popular revolt last month.

``We all know what kind of violence and lawlessness took place after the Oct. 5 coup,''
Milosevic told some 2,300 Socialist Party delegates, referring to street riots that
ended his rule and placed new President Vojislav Kostunica in office.

He has long asserted that those who sought his removal were actually ``paid Western
spies'' who are aiding the ``occupation'' of the country. He described these efforts as
a war -- and argued it wasn't over yet.

``The war which is being conducted against this country is now being conducted with
(Western) money,'' Milosevic said.

Later, the party congress overwhelmingly re-elected Milosevic as the party chief. That
means he will lead the Socialists in crucial Dec. 23 parliamentary elections in
Yugoslavia's dominant Serbian republic.

Calling the new leaders ``traitors,'' Milosevic said they want to hand Serbian
``national heroes'' to the ``new Gestapo,'' in The Hague, Netherlands. The Dutch-based
U.N. tribunal has indicted Milosevic and four of his top aides for alleged war crimes

There have been calls for Milosevic's arrest, both here and abroad. But Milosevic and
his closest associates have been buoyed by Kostunica's refusal to hand him over to the
U.N. war crimes court. Yugoslavia's judiciary has also failed to file any charges
against him for years of corruption, money laundering and economic mismanagement during
his rule.

Milosevic entered the congress hall surrounded by a handful of his loyal bodyguards. A
few protesters shouted, ``Thieves! Thieves!'' Police refused to provide security for

About 100 party activists -- a far cry from the thousands that were bused to Belgrade
greet Milosevic during the last party congress in February -- waved Yugoslav flags and
displayed heart-shaped Socialist badges. The congress was closed to the public and most
of the media.

Milosevic called on his associates to maintain unity. He scolded the new pro-democracy
government for alleged attempts to destroy his party and the country's integrity.

``The biggest defender of the state and national interests is the Socialist Party of
Serbia, and that's why the party is the main target of the attacks,'' Milosevic said,
triggering long applause by the delegates.

``These difficult times ... are calling for unity of the party to prove itself as the
main factor in the defense of state and national interests,'' Milosevic said. ``The
country is in danger.''

An official congress document describing the party's plans for the future indicated
Milosevic hopes that as Yugoslavs struggle through a winter with no heat, power outages
and soaring prices, people will return him to power in the December parliamentary

``This kind of degradation (of the economy) means our immediate success,'' the document
said. ``The December elections are the Socialist Party's chance.''

In the meantime, Milosevic expects that the 18 parties making up Kostunica's Democratic
Opposition of Serbia will break apart because of internal bickering. But his critics,
both former allies and foes, predict that the once-mighty Socialist Party will fall
apart because of Milosevic's intent to remain firmly in control.

The Socialists have been in turmoil since Milosevic's ouster after an overwhelming loss
in Sept. 24 elections. Several top officials quit the party, some forming two separate
pro-left parties. Several of his former associates failed to show up at the congress,
indicating further erosion of his power base.

``After this congress, the Socialist Party will continue walking toward its own
destruction,'' said former top Milosevic ally, Zoran Lilic, who quit the party last
month. ``Milosevic's staying at the helm of the party means its suicide.''

Macdonald Stainsby

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