Old guard protest at 'witch-hunt' by the democrats

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The Independent Online

Allies of the deposed Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic yesterday broke off talks with the new government on a peaceful transition as they tried to obstruct the takeover of key areas of power.

Allies of the deposed Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic yesterday broke off talks with the new government on a peaceful transition as they tried to obstruct the takeover of key areas of power.

The remnants of the Milosevic regime and the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) were protesting against what they saw as a witch-hunt since Mr Milosevic conceded defeat. The SRS, ignoring warnings of more protests, said people were being "lynched by mobs belonging to the illegal regime of the democratic opposition".

Mr Milosevic's Socialist party said in a statement that "it is impossible to continue any dialogue because of the continuing violence and the state of lawlessness in the country".

Since the events of last Thursday, university teachers have forced several deans appointed by the former government to step down. They plan to recall dozens of colleagues expelled from the university during the Milosevic years.

The strike committee of the foreign trade company Genex has forced its chief, Radoman Bozovic, to resign. Mr Bozovic escaped unhurt when a group of workers tried to attack him.

Recent days have also seen reports of a forceful takeover of the state customs office, major banks, and nearly all important companies and factories still in pro-Milosevic hands.

President Vojislav Kostunica has removed key Milosevic allies from power, notably ensuring the resignation of the Yugoslav federal president and the Serbian police chief on Monday. Several other ministers followed yesterday. But it was clear from Monday's rowdy session of the Serbian parliament that Milosevic's cronies are not going to go quietly.

Mr Kostunica's aide, Zoran Djindjic, said Milosevic officials were trying to retain control of the police by holding on to Serbia's interior ministry. He said that State Security - Serbia's feared secret service, which reported only to Mr Milosevic - was "still closed for us".

Mr Kostunica, who yesterday held talks with French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine on the reintegration of Yugoslavia into the international community, tried to calm matters. "There is a certain crisis in the country, but it is under control. We are going to find a way through to get rid of these cases, phenomena of violence and crisis," he said.

In his talks with Mr Vedrine,Mr Kostunica indicated that Yugoslavia would "one day" seek to join the European Union.

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