World leaders tell Milosevic to quit

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The Independent Online

World leaders have called on Slobodan Milosevic to stand down and save his people from bloodshed.

World leaders have called on Slobodan Milosevic to stand down and save his people from bloodshed.

Tony Blair told the Yugoslav President: "Your time is up. Go now."

As demonstrators in Belgrade attacked the parliament and state television buildings, Mr Blair added: "The verdict of the people in the elections was clear. The verdict of the people on the streets is clear.

"The message for Milosevic is clear. Your time is up. Go now. Don't wait until there has been more death and destruction."

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said Milosevic had lost any right to office.

He said: "If Milosevic dares go to his window today, he will see the people want him out. Milosevic must go, the only question now is how and when he goes.

"Ten days ago the people of Serbia rejected Milosevic at the ballot box. Today they have rejected him on the streets of Belgrade.

"The sooner he goes, the sooner we can get on with the fresh start we want for the people of Serbia, rebuilding their country and rebuilding bridges with a modern Europe.

"He is confronted today not just with words but possibly a million people on the streets calling for him to go and he is confronted across the country with industrial action."

But Cook ruled out intervention in Yugoslavia, saying: "I'm not making threats. The last thing that would be helpful for the people of Serbia today is threats. That is what he wants."

President Bill Clinton said it would be inappropriate for the United States to intervene militarily in Yugoslavia.

But he branded Milosevic's regime "a hardcore dictatorship", and added: "I think the people are trying to get their country back, and we support democracy and the will of the Serbian people."

Speaking with reporters in the Rose Garden after an education event, he said: "All we want for the Serbian people (is) ... the right to freely choose their own leaders."

Asked if the US might intervene militarily, he said: "I don't believe it's an appropriate case for military intervention."

He said the US should not do or say anything that would strengthen Milosevic.

Clinton said unbiased reports show opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica "clearly won the election."

He said Kostunica has strong differences with the US.

"It's been a hard-core dictatorship," Clinton said of Milosevic's rule. "They had an election. The election results were then apparently altered. And then now the court has made this decision" nullifying the election.

"I think the people are trying to get their country back. We support democracy and the will of the Serbian people."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking in Bombay on the final day of his visit to India, had said Russia would adjust its position in light of the Yugoslav Constitutional Court ruling and reiterated the offer to mediate.

He said: "We would like the dramatic events in Yugoslavia, our friend, to end with a close to the crisis and the lifting of sanctions.

"We are prepared to work with the international community and with the sides in Yugoslavia to achieve that goal. My offer still stands."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder appealed to Yugoslav security forces not to use violence as demonstrators against President Slobodan Milosevic stormed the Belgrade parliament.

He said: "My appeal is: Don't resort to violence, don't shoot on your own people. That would be catastrophic", Schroeder said in Berlin, also urging the opposition to show restraint.

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer also underlined Germany's view that Milosevic lost last months presidential elections and should step aside in favor of opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica.

Mr Fischer said: "The way must be cleared so that the will of the Serbian people can be realized.

"The army and the police must respect the will of the Yugoslavs and use no violence against the population."

French President Jacques Chirac also urged Milosevic to recognize the opposition's election victory and step down.

He said: "I want to solemnly say to all those who support Milosevic that they are taking a very, very big risk and carry a very, very serious responsibility with regard to their country.

"For pity's sake, let's stop and give the Serb people back their freedom."

Mr Chirac said the decision by Yugoslavia's Constitutional Court to annul part of last month's elections, which opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica says he won, was inadmissible and unacceptable.

And he added: "The Serbs today have confirmed their victory on September 24. Milosevic must understand this. If he does not, he will expose his country to the greatest dangers. One cannot stop history."

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