70,000 join protest at Milosevic's regime

Up to 70,000 people were expected to turn out for a massive anti-government rally in Belgrade last night despite strenuous efforts by the Milosevic regime to lure them away.

In a novel bid to distract disillusioned Serbs, one of the official television stations screened a marathon of pirated copies of Oscar blockbusters yesterday including American Beauty and The World is not Enough. For days, Politika TV had called on its viewers "to stay indoors on Friday".

But from midday, huge groups of opposition sympathisers marched through the streets of the capital chanting anti-Milosevic slogans, headed for Republic Square. Police presence was visible.

The rally was organised by the united opposition parties under the motto "Stop the terror; free elections in Serbia". All the opposition leaders were expected to speak, including Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement and Zoran Djindjic of the Democratic Party.