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Police Beating of Serb Leader Inflames Tensions in Belgrade

June 03, 1993| From Associated Press

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia — Political tensions soared Wednesday with the police beating of Serbia's opposition leader and a scathing attack on Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic by Yugoslavia's ousted president.

Dobrica Cosic accused Milosevic of mounting a coup and branded the Serbian president "an ideological pupil of Stalin's." Milosevic's vision of uniting Serbs in the former Yugoslavia into a "Greater Serbia" has motivated the military offensives by ethnic Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The head of Serbia's biggest opposition party, Vuk Draskovic, was badly beaten in police custody after overnight clashes in Belgrade between hundreds of club-wielding police and crowds protesting Cosic's removal.

One policeman died and dozens of people were injured in the worst riots in the capital since war erupted in the former Yugoslav federation almost two years ago. The violence signaled that Milosevic, leader of the rump Yugoslavia's dominant republic, may be in for a long, seething summer of unrest.

Heavily armed police, some with dogs, patrolled central Belgrade in force Wednesday, on guard for any recurrence of unrest.

Rioting exploded Tuesday hours after Milosevic's Socialist Party and its extreme nationalist allies in the Serbian Radical Party ousted Cosic, a more moderate Serbian nationalist, in a no-confidence vote.

In the explosive aftermath of Cosic's removal, an ultranationalist deputy punched an opposition lawmaker in the jaw, knocking him unconscious in the lobby of the federal Parliament.

Hundreds of people, already disgusted by the televised debate on Cosic, descended on Parliament.

Draskovic, his wife, Danica, and at least 31 leaders of the democratic opposition were arrested during the protest and remained in police custody Wednesday. In all, 121 people were arrested.

Opposition leaders said they were shocked by the beating of Draskovic, who was so badly hurt that police escorted him in a wheelchair to an emergency center. Dr. Zivorad Nikolic said Draskovic had suffered multiple facial and body wounds and fainted several times during examination.

In Bosnia, artillery slammed into Gorazde on Wednesday and a radio report described the eastern city as a "mass grave" as Serbian forces moved against one of the war-torn republic's last Muslim enclaves.

The Bosnian capital of Sarajevo was relatively peaceful, but the United Nations halted relief flights after snipers wounded four French soldiers and an American relief plane was hit by a machine-gun bullet.

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