Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Milosevic continues to pull strings in Serbia

Milosevic “blocking appointment of defence minister”

BELGRADE -- Wednesday – Slobodan Milosevic has instructed his Socialist Party of Serbia not to vote for Zoran Stankovic as defence minister, Glas Javnosti quotes a source within the party as saying today.

The Belgrade daily says Milosevic is angry over statements that Stankovic would hand former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic over to the Hague Tribunal.

The federal parliament is scheduled to sit on Friday to ratify Stankovic’s appointment. However the election could be delayed until a consensus is reached.

Both factions of the Socialist Party have said unofficially that the ruling coalition has failed to secure a majority for the appointment, which a senior official of Vojislav Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia, Nebojsa Bakarec, has also confirmed.

“Consultations are under way, conducted by the federal Parliament speaker, Zoran Sami, and the head of the Democratic Party of Serbia caucus, Aleksandar Pravdic. Unless the Socialists discipline some of their deputies, the negotiations will have to resume. Either way we must secure a majority before the candidacy is on the agenda, which means that the election of a new defence minister may be postponed,” said Bakarec.

The Milosevic-loyal faction of the Socialists headed by Milutin Mrkonjic, whose votes are needed for the appointment have declined to comment, but Glas Javnosti quotes a source close to Milosevic as saying that he had nothing against the candidate initially.

“He never opposed Sloba. A few doctors from the Military Medical Academy visited Milosevic in The Hague several times while Stankovic was director of the hospital. But Sloba was furious when he heard that Stankovic had met with Carla Del Ponte and promised to have Mladic in The Hague by the end of the year. Milosevic, noticeably upset, spoke to Mrkonjic by telephone and instructed those who support him not to vote for anyone who is prepared to betray Serbia and trade with the tribunal,” said the source.

Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, in prison in The Hague awaiting trial, is reported to have influenced Milosevic’s decision. The two have discussed bringing down the government and nominating a joint list of candidates fro the next elections. Glas Javnosti’s source from the Socialist Party confirmed that communication between Seselj and Milosevic was now barred, but that they had early freely discussed any subject they pleased.

Senior Radical official Dragan Todorovic, who returned from visiting Seselj three days ago, said he knew nothing of the issue. B92

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