Milosevic win stirs Serb fears

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SERBIAN nationalists yesterday celebrated the final presidential election results which awarded a resounding victory to their hard- line leader, Slobodan Milosevic.

According to the Yugoslav federal election commission, Mr Milosevic won 56 per cent of the vote against 34 per cent for his moderate rival, Milan Panic. Mr Milosevic pledged to work for peace and a 'stern but fair' state. The vote was an 'expression of the people's will', and would end 'attempts to destabilise Serbia'.

Mr Panic, a pro-Western businessman, congratulated Mr Milosevic on his victory and, in a brief report from the Tanjug news agency, appeared to drop accusations of vote-rigging.

'I am convinced that the democratic process, so strongly expressed at these elections, cannot be stopped by any means now,' he said, 'and that it will continue developing and strengthening to the benefit of the citizens and nations of Serbia and Yugoslavia.'

Mr Panic might not stay on as the Yugoslav Prime Minister. He said he discussed his future with the President, Dobrina Cosic, who has the power to nominate the prime minister in the new government. 'I have informed Mr Cosic that I do not plan to stay in government (with) the constitution of congress (parliament) the way it is today,' Mr Panic said. 'Therefore, when the government changes . . . I may resign.'

Although the final results were a huge disappointment to the West, Mr Panic's apparent endorsement of the vote means that it will be harder for the West to reject the outcome.

Results in Serbia's parliamentary elections are not yet final, but with 90 per cent of the vote counted, it appears that Mr Milosevic's ruling Socialist Party will control 101 of the 250 seats.

The next largest bloc of seats, 73, will be controlled by the Serbian Radical Party of the ultra- nationalist paramilitary leader, Vojislav Seselj. The opposition coalition Depos looks likely to win only 49 seats.

Although nationalists are pleased with the results, their enthusiasm has to be weighed against growing fear in Serbia that their choice will prompt Western military intervention. The pressure for outside intervention appeared to increase yesterday, after Muslim forces accused the Bosnian Serbs of defying the United Nations 'no-fly zone' by using helicopters to reinforce Gradacac, a northern Bosnian town under attack by Muslim forces. Bosnian Serbs denied the accusation.

There is, however, rising anxiety among Bosnia's Serbs that their position is growing increasingly precarious. On Thursday, Croat forces are reported to have cut a key Serb supply route around the town of Brcko in northern Bosnia, the so-called 'Northern Corridor' that links Serb forces in eastern Bosnia with those in western Bosnia. The corridor is vital to the Serbs for the flow of food, fuel and munitions from Serbia, on which they depend to wage their war.