Milosevic tells Serbs to vote against the 'traitors'

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The Independent Online

Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav President, made his first public appearance in the election campaign yesterday, telling Serbs to vote for the patriots who rebuilt the country after Nato air raids, rather than an opposition he described as traitors.

Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav President, made his first public appearance in the election campaign yesterday, telling Serbs to vote for the patriots who rebuilt the country after Nato air raids, rather than an opposition he described as traitors.

"People will be able to differentiate between their own and foreign interests, between real heroes and foreign informers," a grim-faced Mr Milosevic said, casting the opposition in the role of lackeys of Western powers.

He blasted those who "minimised, ignored or even mocked our reconstruction efforts that amount to a miracle ... That is a sign of their own inferiority."

Mr Milosevic delivered his 16-minute speech to some 10,000 people as he opened part of a hydroelectric plant on the Danube at Kusjak, 165 miles south-east of Belgrade. He is seeking another presidential mandate after constitutional changes in his favour were made in July.

State-controlled television described the event, held less than two weeks before the Yugoslav elections, as "a magnificent gathering of more than 100,000 people". Reporters at the scene saw hundreds of buses with registration plates from all over eastern Serbia, which had obviously brought people to the site. Security was heavy, with dozens of plainclothes policemen around the plant since early morning.

Mr Milosevic praised Serbs for standing up to Nato, "being the people who will never concede defeat and always succeed in winning over evil ... We have rebuilt almost everything [that Nato destroyed]."

Blaming the international community for all the hardships of Serbs in the past 10 years, he praised their "stoic conduct at a time of privation".

For months now, Serbia has faced shortages of basic foodstuffs such as sugar and cooking oil. The production of vegetables, including potatoes, fell by 30 to 50 per cent compared with 1999. The corn harvest is half of last year's.

Mr Milosevic is widely expected to make another speech next week in the northern Serbian town of Novi Sad, where three bridges were destroyed by Nato bombs last year. One bridge was rebuilt and reopens on 20 September.

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