Riot police end march on Milosevic's home

Serbia's neo-Communist authorities deployed riot police in Belgrade yesterday to prevent thousands of student demonstrators from marching towards the home of President Slobodan Milosevic. In a tense confrontation, riot police blocked a busy street near the US embassy and forced the students to abandon their hope of massing outside Mr Milosevic's home in Dedinje.

The students' march coincided with a trip to Belgrade by Italy's Foreign Minister, Lamberto Dini. He was the most senior Western politician to visit Serbia since huge anti-government demonstrations broke out almost four weeks ago in protest at alleged election-rigging by the Socialist authorities.

Mr Dini held separate meetings with Mr Milosevic and opposition leaders, and said afterwards that both sides had "left a margin for discussion".

The immediate cause of the trouble is the Socialists' refusal to recognise local election victories for the opposition in Belgrade and other large cities last month. The opposition Zajedno (Together) coalition movement would also like to see Mr Milosevic removed from power, but has sworn to stick to peaceful methods in pursuit of this goal.

Mr Dini said the opposition was being unrealistic in continuing to demand official recognition of the 17 November polls which would have deprived the Socialists of power in Belgrade for the first time since 1945. "Reinstatement of the results seems to me to be something that is not on the cards as the basis for dialogue between the parties. They must find a formula around the impasse," he said.

His remarks drew an instant rebuff from one of Zajedno's three main leaders, Vuk Drasko-vic, who said recognition of the opposition's election victories was a precondition of dialogue with Mr Milosevic. Other opposition leaders hinted at a deal involving fresh polls staged under international supervision. The state media also would be required to abandon their strong pro-government bias.

Such conditions may not appeal to Mr Milosevic, who tightly controls the media. As an example of the kind of propaganda being fed to the Serbian public, a new tabloid weekly called Flash carried a banner headline in its first edition saying: "The CIA is carrying out its plan: the Albanian mafia is funding the demonstrations."

Mr Milosevic has given no signal that he is willing to hold new local elections or make substantial concessions to the opposition. He has said nothing in public that would suggest he even thinks he has a problem.

Pristina (AP) - The party representing ethnic Albanians in Serbia's Kosovo province said one of its activists died after being tortured by Serbian police. Feriz Blakcori, 34, died two days ago at a hospital. The Democratic League of Kosovo said his body bore signs of torture and he was the 14th Albanian victim of Serb repression this year.