Radical warning to the West

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The Independent Online
Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj promised cooperation with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and confrontation with the West if he won the Serbian presidency in elections held yesterday.

"The Radical Party's victory would rule out any possibility of kneeling to any western force." he said. "Serbia will focus on its own interests. It won't be anyone's servant."

Election officials said the early turnout was running at the same level as the first round on 21 September, when 57.5 percent of the 7.2 million electorate voted. The vote must top 50 percent to be valid and avoid a fresh election, with a boycott by opposition parties threatening to leave the turnout short of the threshold.

Milosevic looked grim when he voted with his wife Mira, leader of the powerful neo-communist JUL party to which most of Serbia's non-socialist political and business elite belong.

With his radicals enjoying a surge in support, Seselj was challenging Milosevic's Socialist Party candidate Zoran Lilic for the republican presidency.

In presidential elections in Montenegro, Serbia's smaller but equal partner in the Yugoslav federation, polls tipped Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic to defeat outgoing President Momir Bulatovic, Milosevic's candidate.

Seselj, a hardline nationalist and paramilitary commander during Serbia's wars with the secessionist former republics of Croatia and Bosnia, has been both an ally and a foe of Milosevic.

Political sources said Seselj would fight hard to prevent Milosevic siphoning power from the Serbian presidency to the Yugoslav presidency. Seselj is a dedicated foe of the Bosnian peace agreement and of western demands for compromise with the restive ethnic Albanian majority in Serbia's province of Kosovo. He has ruled out the extradition of former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic and army commander General Ratko Mladic for trial by the UN war crimes tribunal.

Coalition with Seselj would make it impossible for Milosevic to meet the West's demands, without which the UN sanctions still crippling the Yugoslav economy will remain in place.