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Milosevic's Political Rivals Looking to Postwar Struggle


PODGORICA, Yugoslavia — The beefy bodyguard, on duty protecting one of Serbia's top opposition figures, jumped nervously from his seat when he saw an approaching soldier in camouflage uniform.

The soldier had just entered the lobby of the Hotel Montenegro and was visible through the glass doors of the nearly empty hotel restaurant, where Zoran Djindjic, the president of the largest party in Serbia fully committed to democracy, was giving an interview.

It isn't easy being an opposition politician anywhere in Yugoslavia these days. Even here in the relative safety of Montenegro--the republic ruled by pro-Western political opponents of President Slobodan Milosevic--Democratic Party leader Djindjic and his bodyguard couldn't completely relax.

But the soldier had other business in the hotel--he went to the men's room. Djindjic carried on explaining how he and Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic hope to use this small republic as a base from which to spread democratic ideas and objective information into Serbia, the much larger of the two republics that form Yugoslavia. Both men appear to assume that Milosevic may well survive in office once the war is over, despite his indictment Thursday, along with four top aides, on war crimes charges.

"We must find a way to explain to the people what has happened during the war and our position on different issues," Djindjic said.

As Djindjic spoke, he was constantly interrupted by calls on his mobile phone. With one of the calls, his voice suddenly adopted a tone of enormous respect as well as a touch of formality.

"Your statement on BBC was very good," Djindjic said into the phone. "There's no one who is a greater patriot than you. . . . Your compliments mean a lot to me. I appreciate your support above everything."

The caller was Crown Prince Alexander, the British-born heir to the Yugoslav throne, who lives in London but has emerged as one of the players trying to build a healthier society for postwar Yugoslavia.

Among the greatest assets Djindjic and Djukanovic bring to the struggle for democracy in Yugoslavia are their strong connections to Western Europe and their ability to charm foreigners--a sharp contrast to the dark aura surrounding Milosevic and his inner circle.

The indictments of Milosevic and his closest supporters will make life harder for the democratic opposition in the weeks ahead, but in the long run the Yugoslav president's power will wane, Djindjic said.

"It is a high-risk game now, between Milosevic and the people around him and NATO," Djindjic said on the day the indictments were announced. "We can try to survive in Montenegro as a democratic element, try to survive in Serbia as democratic parties not in direct confrontation with Milosevic. He will be very dangerous now."

Lobbying Efforts for Western Backing

Both Djindjic and Djukanovic have traveled to Western Europe in recent weeks. That was partly to lobby for what they called, in a joint statement written for Western leaders, "decisive international help" in the formation of a democratic postwar Yugoslavia--including backing for a television station they plan to launch.

"Montenegro needs more support," Djindjic said. "It's very important that normal life be protected in Montenegro without crises in food, oil, gas lines, this kind of thing. The international community ought to give financial support for refugees and for the economic situation. It will be enough."

But close ties to the countries that are bombing Yugoslavia are also the two men's greatest liability, because such ties open them to charges of disloyalty.

In Djukanovic's case, that liability is compounded by his policy of keeping Montenegro out of Milosevic's fight with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And for Djindjic, it is aggravated by his decision a few weeks ago to flee Serbia and set up operations in Montenegro, largely out of fear that goons in the service of Milosevic might kill him.

Djindjic's fear is not unfounded. Prominent opposition journalist Slavko Curuvija was killed last month after being accused on state-run television of being a traitor. State media in Belgrade, the Yugoslav and Serbian capital, and pro-Milosevic politicians are now bombarding Djindjic with the same charge.

Some fellow opposition figures have also blasted Djindjic, among them former Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement. A onetime opposition ally of Djindjic who joined Milosevic's government early this year, Draskovic was fired after making critical remarks last month and has been maneuvering in recent weeks to portray himself as the country's leading opposition figure.

Sniping From Ostensible Allies

Draskovic--whose democratic credentials are much weaker than Djindjic's--has criticized the Democratic Party leader for "running away from Serbia at its most difficult moment."

Djindjic has even faced sniping from within his own party.

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