Serbia pressed to back down on polls

With some kind of resolution to the crisis in Serbia appearing imminent and tension rising between demonstrators and riot police, the international community yesterday piled pressure on Slobodan Milosevic to recognise the opposition's victories in last November's municipal elections and put the country back on the path to democracy. A delegation of US congressmen and a special French envoy were all in town to ram the message home to the Yugoslav Foreign Minister, Milan Milutinovic, and show solidarity with opposition leaders.

The European Union issued another hard-hitting statement and the Contact Group on the former Yugoslavia announced it would meet in Brussels today to discuss the crisis further.

The Greek Foreign Minister, Theodoros Pangalos, who said he would be in Belgrade tomorrow to meet Mr Milosevic. Greece is closer to the Serbian leadership than any other state, and the meeting could be the prelude to some kind of a watershed decision.

While the government showed signs of softening, police got rougher with the thousands of demonstrators still turning up in central Belgrade daily. Scuffles have been reported in the past two days.

The demonstrators have become more determined and early yesterday students who had faced down the police all night celebrated as they were left to roam at will.

n In Bulgaria, protesters broke into the the parliament building during a demonstration to demand early parliamentary elections, writes Adrian Bridge.

Their protest came after the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party refused to vote on a "salvation declaration" proposed by the opposition Union of Democratic Forces that called for an early national poll.

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