Test for Milosevic as he offers power to the people

`I will not believe this until I see Zajedno take their seats and form Belgade's new city council'
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The Independent Online
After 78 days of protests, President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia has apparently bowed to the will of his people, ordering his government to accept the opposition's victory in local elections.

But last night youths looking for a return match with riot police stoned traffic police and smashed windows, provoking shooting from plainclothes policemen and increasing tension in Belgrade. The Prime Minister, Marko Marjanovic, is to implement Mr Milosevic's demand today, according to state television, and will ask parliament to enact a law allowing councillors from Zajedno, the opposition coalition, to take control of the city hall in Belgrade and 13 other large towns.

But Zajedno leaders were cautious, aware that Mr Milosevic has used such concessions only to gain time. Zoran Djindjic, the most charismatic of the triumvirate leading the opposition, said Serbia's crisis had deepened since the poll on 17 November and that the Socialists would have to do more than acknowledge electoral defeat. The opposition also demands a free press and punishment of officials responsible for the electoral theft and the violent repression of demonstrators by riot police. Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Belgrade's Republic Square yesterday afternoon cheered the news and demanded that Mr Milosevic resign.

They dispersed peacefully under the watch of at least 1,000 riot police but a few dozen youths hung around and stoned traffic police, some of whom fired into the air, according to radio reports.

By 7.30pm last night, when citizens whistle and bang pots and pans to drown the propaganda on state television news, peaceful demonstrators and some hooligans were mingled in Republic Square, muddying the waters of protest. Some youths among them were clearly determined to provoke violent scenes and within half an hour hundreds of riot police were back in the square.