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May 10, 1993
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 85
Reactions: Serbia

Gamblers and Onlookers

by Milan Milosevic

"Proclaim a victory and run" - this advice that senator Ican gave to the US government during the war in Vietnam, is what Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic tried to apply on mount Jahorina, but it didn't work. His opponents at home did not condemn this attempt to get out of the war, but they did make it clear that they won't forget who had led to it.

"The members of parliament in the Rajska Dolina Hotel decided to send us to hell, said leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) Vuk Draskovic, who explained this decision with an epic motive - "those eighty or so most irresponsible Serbs want to go down in history and to enter folk poems as heroes who declared war on the entire world". "All great national catastrophes, however, do not come overnight - six years of a bad policy could not have been annulled in six days", "Slobodan Milosevic ran out of gasoline for extinguishing the fire in Bosnia".

Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic admitted in Pale (Bosnian Serb political centre) that Yugoslavia is involved in the war in Bosnia, observed Draskovic, and called for Yugoslavia to stop sending any kind of military assistance to those who have decided to continue the war.

Nikola Milosevic (the Serbian Liberal Party) has concluded that, while this suited him, Milosevic kept lulling the Bosnian Serbs into the unrealistic dream about an independent state, and then he roughly woke them up when he assessed that he could lose power because of this. It is now both the deceived and the deceivers that have to bear political responsibility.

Dragoljub Micunovic (Democratic party) considers that no one is now an authority for the Bosnian Serbs, not even the three presidents, nor Mr.Mitzotakis, nor the Patriarch, and that they are even undermining the authority of their own leadership, after which there will be no one to negotiate in their name, which could create a situation in which the peace forces will treat them as an armed anarchy. Vojislav Kostunica (the Democratic Party of Serbia), who considers the Vance-Owen plan unfavorable for the Serbs, said that the assembly on Jahorina was very close to a rational decision, to accept the plan but to make the signature conditional on certain concessions. However, not wishing to take the responsibility, they took a more risky decision which will most probably be interpreted as a rejection. Kostunica explains the failure with a wrongly conducted dialogue, with the breaking of people and attempts to win them over for the political turnabout in the Serbian leadership. This, he considers, is typical communist conduct (the trip to Athens, the letter of the Assembly, the letter of the three presidents and the trip to Pale). Ratomir Tanic (Civic Alliance) has qualified the decision of the Bosnian Serbs as "an enormous amount of irresponsibility regarding decisions that have to do with life and death": Blinded by the war, they paid no attention either to the interests of the citizens of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, or to their own personal interests. The authorities' subsequent wisdom was obviously belated." The Civic Alliance has called on the authorities to protect the citizens of Serbia and Montenegro from the insanity of the Bosnian Serb leaders and reiterated its request for the citizens of Serbia to have their say, at a referendum, about the borders, the recognition of other states, membership in the United Nations, amnesty for war fugitives, etc. Andras Agoston (the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Vojvodina) said, in a balanced manner, that "this is a very difficult decision for all of us". Vojislav Seselj (the Serbian Radical Party) placed all the chips on the war option, he said that the Serbian side has the strength to respond fully to NATO forces, that it can go on fighting for ten years provided that it keeps getting humanitarian aid and supplies from Yugoslavia. According to him, a conditional acceptance of the Vance-Owen plan would be equal to recognizing an occupation. He claimed that he had saved the Socialists on several occasions from "treasonous parties", callinf on them to pursue "a patriotic policy". He announced that he would take over their slogan "Serbia will not bend", and that he would call for the dismissal of the managerial board at Serbian RTV, in order to put his followers back on the screen. This is the second sign in a week's time that the coalition of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) is breaking (the first sign was the rejection of the initiative launched at the federal assembly to dismiss Dobrica Cosic). In its announcement, the SPS concluded that the decision of the parliament members in Pale is "deeply wrong; it draws us away from a solution; it is contrary to the interests of the Serbian nation as a whole; it can annul all the results of the just struggle achieved so far; peace has no alternative, and the Bosnian leadership is leading us towards uncertainty..." There are assumptions that the rift between the SPS and the SRS could lead to a parliamentary crisis and to new elections if parties of the democratic center don't decide to tolerate Milosevic's rule for some time, until things settle down, or to take the attitude of a loyal opposition. Only members of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) still don't participate in the work of the parliament. Among the parliamentary parties, only the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) has announced a St.Vitus Day rally but, for the moment, the only political goal being mentioned is the "liberation of TV Bastille". Draskovic has called on Slobodan Milosevic and Dobrica Cosic to submit their resignations. Nikola Milosevic thinks that it is Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic who should resign. All these reactions lead to the renewal of requests for new elections, but it is not clear whether this will be demanded immediately. However, perhaps one should not rule out the possibility of the parties of the democratic center realizing what is now obvious, that Milosevic is perhaps not the worst option that could prevail in Serbia, that is, that the open national-war option is much worse and that they should wait a little and see whether Milosevic will avoid a conflict with Seselj despite the glove that has been thrown in his face.

All in all, Slobodan Milosevic told his partners in Bosnia to their face everything that the critical public kept telling him for several years, that "drunk gamblers cannot put the nation at stake". If the findings of the "Partner" agency are correct, the public opinion is following him in this turnabout. In the latest poll, 61.7 percent of the polled were for the signing of the Vance-Owen plan and 20 percent were against; on April 27, 39 percent were "for" and 23 percent "against" while on April 9 the response "no" was circled by as many as 70 percent of the polled. But, by then, 76 percent had said that the plan should be signed if certain conditions are met. In the meantime, and this should also be borne in mind, Serbian RTV changed the course of its propaganda - from blowing war trumpets to an almost a pacifist tone. Slobodan Milosevic returned from Bosnia humiliated and Dobrica Cosic was more concerned than ever. There are quite a few indications that, concerning the Belgrade political scene, the truly belated and forced turnabout of the Serbian regime towards an end of the war is enjoying the support of a relevant political majority, the democratic center, the critics of the war policy who point to the failure of the policy followed for six years.

It is not clear with what kind of calculations the high-ranking political delegation set off for Bosnia, but the question is whether they counted on such an open negation of their authority, and perhaps even on the loss of the legitimacy to negotiate. They had to know that, prior to this, the assembly resolution over whose adoption there were problems a week ago, was ignored in Pale; the letter of the Yugoslav presidents didn't help, but they hoped that this war-time assembly would be fascinated by the Athens compromise, by Mitzotakis in person, the Patriarch's message and the presence of the leaders they leaned on and in whose honor they sang heroic songs.

Nevertheless, it turned out that this trip didn't result in humiliation and harm only. On Thursday, the BBC concluded that Milosevic's rating in the West had grown and that from a diabolized person he was, in fact, becoming an emissary of the United Nations. In a statement after the session, Milosevic himself said that he was sure the negotiations would continue and that this unreasonable decision would be overcome. He did not want to speak about the details at that moment. Before arriving in Belgrade, Lord Owen said that he would ask Cosic and Milosevic to keep their word and to close the border with Bosnia with the help of the police and army. On Thursday, Milosevic made his first counter-move. This was seen in the announcement made by Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic's government saying that the decision of the Bosnian Serbs was an "irresponsible act", and then it went on to say something even sharper from which one could conclude that Serbia would send only food and medicine to Bosnia, and that it would accept refugees and the wounded, but that it would not allow Bosnian Serb leaders to live comfortably and luxuriously in Belgrade and to follow an irresponsible policy, offering their people only war and poverty. On the same day, the federal government expressed dissatisfaction and concluded that Yugoslavia was directly endangered thanks to such developments. It said that Yugoslavia could no longer endure the exhaustion and announced that it would limit its assistance to Bosnia.

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