Serbian Parliament session delayed by haggling

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The Independent Online

A special session of the Serbian parliament called to approve a power-sharing deal between President Vojislav Kostunica's allies and Slobodan Milosevic's party was delayed Saturday because of differences over members of the new administration.

A special session of the Serbian parliament called to approve a power-sharing deal between President Vojislav Kostunica's allies and Slobodan Milosevic's party was delayed Saturday because of differences over members of the new administration.

The 250-member parliament was to have opened the session at 10 a.m. (0800 gmt) but by early afternoon, the meeting had not begun.

Sources in Kostunica's camp, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the democracy forces were objecting to at least one Cabinet nominee proposed by Milosevic's Socialist Party. Kostunica's followers also insist that the head of the Serbian election commission be replaced, the sources said.

Representatives of both sides were meeting to try to resolve the impasse.

The parliament is supposed to ratify a plan worked out between Kostunica's Democratic Opposition of Serbia and the Socialists, under which the current republican government will be replaced by a transition administration until new elections Dec. 23.

Those elections offer democracy forces a chance to sweep away the last vestiges of Milosevic's rule and begin the long, painful task of reconstructing this country after 13 years of hardline rule.

Under the deal struck Monday, the Socialist Party will keep the post of prime minister. Key ministries such as police, information, justice and finance will be run jointly by the Socialists, Kostunica's alliance and another opposition party, the Serbian Renewal Movement.

Although keeping the prime ministership, the Socialists agreed to replace controversial Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic with a relative moderate, Milomir Minic.

On Friday, Kostunica's group raised objections to Branislav Ivkovic, a top party official who had campaigned vigorously against them in the contentious Sept. 24 election, which the opposition claimed Milosevic tried to steal from them.

Ivkovic was proposed as minister of science and technology.

"We simply object to any attempt by the Socialists to sneak into the transition government some of the party's most heavily compromised people," said Kostunica ally Nebojsa Covic, who is the likely new deputy prime minister.

Milosevic ally Milan Milutinovic, who has been indicted for war crimes by the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, keeps his post as Serbian president, which is elected separately from the parliament. His term runs out in 2002.

However, the Serbian parliament had not been scheduled for elections until next year, so the agreement on an early ballot constitutes a major concession by the discredited Socialists.

Kostunica took office Oct. 7 as Yugoslavia's federal president. However, Serbia accounts for more than 90 percent of Yugoslavia's population, and control of the powerful Serbian administration is essential to wielding real power in the country.

The Socialists hold 110 of the 250 seats in the Serbian parliament. Their allies, the Serbian Radical Party has 82 seats, followed by the Serbian Renewal Movement with 45. Thirteen other seats are held by minor parties.

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