Serb riot police clear streets of protesters

Riot police forced opposition demonstrators off Belgrade's streets yesterday as the Serbian government cracked down on more than five weeks of protests against President Slobodan Milosevic. A spokeswoman for the Zajedno (Together) opposition parties said the coalition feared its three main leaders were about to be arrested as Mr Milosevic appeared to lose patience with the disruption of the capital for several hours a day.

Thousands of police in riot gear swamped central Belgrade to enforce an interior ministry ban on marches by Zajedno and students against alleged election fraud perpetrated by the ruling Socialist Party (SPS).

The police ignored a march through snowy streets by 5,000 students but were firm with around 30,000 Zajedno activists blocking a main street under the windows of the opposition headquarters in the city centre.

They forced the demonstrators into a pedestrian area at the nearby Republic Square, butting those who resisted with their shields and hitting them with batons.

The three Zajedno leaders said to be threatened with arrest, Zoran Djindjic, Vuk Draskovic and Vesna Pesic, addressed the demonstrators from a platform in the square. Mr Djindjic told the whistling crowd: "Can you imagine a country in which, after losing local elections, its president tries to provoke a civil war?" He added: "We will always manage to last one day longer than Milosevic. They simply cannot keep 20,000 police in Belgrade every day, but we can hold out for six months if necessary."

The Zajedno spokeswoman said 20,000 police equipped with water cannon were deployed in the capital to prevent a 37th day of opposition protests.

The United States and other Western governments have warned Mr Milosevic he risks economic reprisals and continued international isolation if he uses violence to restore order. He rejected a request for an emergency meeting from a US diplomat, Richard Miles, who saw the Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic instead.

The Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister, Nikola Sainovic, told journalists the authorities would not use violence but said "anyone who violates or questions the authority of the law will not be tolerated".

At least 58 people were injured in fighting between police, opposition and SPS supporters on Tuesday when Mr Milosevic held a counter-rally outside the Zajedno offices which flopped.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk