Milosevic allies stage fightback

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The Independent Online

Slobodan Milosevic's allies launched a counter-revolution yesterday, plunging Serbia into a potentially violent crisis by grabbing control of the security services and rejecting attempts to end their authority over key state institutions.

Slobodan Milosevic's allies launched a counter-revolution yesterday, plunging Serbia into a potentially violent crisis by grabbing control of the security services and rejecting attempts to end their authority over key state institutions.

The rearguard action saw the government of Serbia attempting a constitutional coup against the new Yugoslav President, Vojislav Kostunica. Mr Milosevic's loyalists in the still functioning Serbian government said they intended to disobey the federal President's orders. They also said state television, seized during mass protests last week, should be under their control.

The Serbian government also announced that Mirko Marjanovic, the republic's pro-Milosevic Prime Minister, was taking control of its interior ministry - a move that would give him direct control of Serbia's 100,000 police.

Mr Kostunica's supporters pledged to call more demonstrations if Mr Milosevic's allies tried to regain control and said the public would not allow Serbia to fall back into the hands of the Milosevic camp.

Technically Mr Marjanovic and the Serbian government are still in power: the elections that swept Mr Milosevic aside were only on a federal level. And whoever controls Serbia ineffect controls Yugoslavia. Two days ago the Serbian interior minister was forced out of office, after which the republic's government reluctantly agreed to stand aside and hold elections on 17 December.

Yesterday it reneged on that agreement, accusing the opposition of not doing enough to control "lawlessness and violence". Branislav Ivkovic, the Serbian Science Minister, said in a radio interview that only the decisions of "legal bodies" on a Serbian, not federal, level would be respected.

The opposition alliance behind Mr Kostunica threatened to bring the people back on to the streets. The President's allies later offered to share some power with the old guard.

But in a further rebuff to Mr Kostunica, army generals warned against the "negative consequences" of purging the senior ranks of the military appointed by Mr Milosevic. In a defiant statement the army cautioned against the "possible negative consequences of increased attacks and attempts to discredit certain individuals of the Yugoslav army".

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