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July 6, 1992
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 41
Interview: Mr. Nebojsa Popov, leader of the Republican Club

It's Now or Never

by Milan Milosevic

On June 29, Mr. Popov, in capacity of head of an opposition's delegation, had a meeting with Mr. Slobodan Milosevic. We talked with him shortly after that. Here are some of his views.


How far off is the day when the Serbian regime will begin to negotiate with the opposition?

Unfortunately, we all grew up in a system where the power holders kept saying that partnership with the authorities is not possible. Today, of course, the opposition must accept that partnership, but the authorities are expected to do the same. The precondition for such negotiations is the President' s resignation, since he - according to the opposition's and the world's judgment - represents the main obstacle to the negotiations.


When Mr. President mentioned that he was ready to test his ratings, do you think he actually offered his resignation?

I started from the fact that he too is a citizen, and therefore responsible for what he says. That is why I asked him to explain his standpoint, expecting that he will stick to what he said. Although those who know what kind of a person he is are very skeptical about his frankness, I could not have faith in myself if I had a priori convinced myself that I should not trust him.


Do you think that the present regime will eventually retire because of the pressure being exerted by the opposition or because it is technically incapable of controlling this catastrophe?

There is no time left for speculation. If the negotiations are not launched before an even larger number of people begins to starve, a catastrophe is inevitable. It is not due only because of the blockade, the sanctions, the threat of war, of all kinds of militias - its roots are inside. Desperate people become ruthless and once that happens nobody will want to talk.


Does that mean that if this last chance is missed, fascism is our future?

I fear a very original form of fascism, which will shock all sensible people, here and abroad. Before the war broke out in Sarajevo, I used to go there to try to prevent a total war. Many used to say that such a thing is impossible because of the balance of fear. There has never been so much fear in Belgrade as there is now. People are preparing themselves for war, for hunger, even for the bombing. Getting used to a catastrophe diminishes our resistance and our capacity to do something to stop it and make the first move to change the dominant tendencies. Negotiations are the first move and our only way out.


The denouement is near?

I think that within the next few days it will be clear which direction we shall take. If we miss the chance to negotiate I fear that those who are advocating negotiations will fall into despair and only violence which is bears the fact of the present regime and a new kind of violence which is currently in league with the present regime will remain on the scene.

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