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Milosevic foes meet, plan rally in Belgrade

Published Sep. 29, 2005

Stepping up pressure against Slobodan Milosevic, rival opposition leaders met for the first time in years Monday to try to form a united front.

The downtown Belgrade meeting was convened by Patriarch Pavle, the influential head of Serbia's Orthodox Church. Afterward, the participants agreed to jointly appear at an anti-Milosevic rally in the Yugoslav capital on Aug. 19.

Monday's meeting was the first time since massive pro-democracy protests in 1996-97 that rival opposition figures set aside differences and met face to face. But while they agreed on the need for Milosevic's removal and democratic changes in Serbia _ including the forming of a transitional government _ they remained at odds over how to achieve those goals.

Zoran Djindjic, head of the Democratic Party, said the opposition will increase pressure on Milosevic in late August and early September in an effort to make him step down.

"Milosevic can be brought to reason only by pressure. We can have no illusion that he would negotiate," Djindjic said.

Another anti-Milosevic figure, Vuk Draskovic, however, said a transitional government must be the result of an agreement between the government and the opposition.

Djindjic and Draskovic have often been at odds in the past. The rift between the two led to the collapse of major anti-Milosevic street protests in 1996-97.

In a swift official reaction, the state Tanjug news agency denounced the meeting, saying the opposition leaders "are practically inducing the church to violate the constitution," which calls for it to stay out of politics.

Milosevic's allies have said NATO is plotting to conquer Serbia, Yugoslavia's dominant republic.