Serb army chief attacks opposition

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The Independent Online
IN A clear sign that the army is losing patience with Slobodan Milosevic's political opponents, Yugoslavia's chief of staff has accused opposition parties of pushing the country towards catastrophe and of working in the interests of its Western enemies.

General Dragolljub Ojdanic's remarks were reported in the pro-government daily Politika. He said the wave of protest meetings against President Milosevic would not succeed. Describing the opposition parties as "bought souls and vassals of the West", he said they were trying to overthrow an elected government by force "and push the state into a new catastrophe".

The general spoke out after a weekend opposition rally by supporters of the Serb Renewal party leader, Vuk Draskovic, in the central town of Kragujevac attracted a crowd of about 10,000.

General Ojdanic's aversion to a change of government is understandable. He and President Milosevic have been indicted for war crimes against Albanian civilians in Kosovo by the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Mr Milosevic has refused to co-operate with the tribunal and his continued tenure in office, therefore, is crucial to the general's own security.

But the general's attack on the opposition points to a growing chasm between the army top brass, determined to sink or swim with Mr Milosevic, and ordinary soldiers, many of whom sympathise with the opposition's calls for the President to resign.

Army reservists have been demonstrating in many towns in Serbia, accusing the authorities of presiding over a sell-out in Kosovo and demanding back pay and the publication of a list of all soldiers killed in the Kosovo conflict. Although the protests have been suspended recently, the reservists have threatened a bigger demonstration in the southern city of Nis if their demands are not met.

t Two US soldiers were killed when their armoured personnel carrier overturned. They were the first US peace-keepers to die in Kosovo. The accident happened on Sunday two miles north-east of Gnjilane, the headquarters of the US contingent in the K-For operation.