Serb Opposition Pushes for Free Yugoslav Elections

By Louis Economopoulos | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

Athens, Greece ( - Serbian opposition leaders meeting here agreed that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic must be removed from power and that the international community should ease sanctions against Belgrade.

Following a weekend conference held at an Athens seaside resort, representatives of the Serbian opposition issued a declaration calling for free national elections to be held in Yugoslavia soon.

The delegates said international sanctions against Belgrade were hurting the common citizens most and should be eased up.

However, James Dobbins, President Clinton's special adviser on Kosovo and Bosnia who also attended the conference, objected to easing sanctions. He said the United States believed the sanctions were necessary to hurt Milosevic.

Among those attending the conference were Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, the son of Yugoslavia's last king before the royal family's expulsion; Zoran Djindjic, head of the Democratic Party; Belgrade Mayor Vojislav Mihailovic, who represented main opposition Serbian Renewal Movement party leader Vuk Draskovic who is ill; and Nenand Canak, head of the Union of Change.

Representatives of non-governmental organizations from Yugoslavia, Serbs living abroad, the Serb Orthodox Church, and independent media from Yugoslavia also participated.

In the conference's opening speech, Karadjordjevic called on all Serb forces to unite for the sake of promoting radical changes in Serbia and protecting the country from greater catastrophe.

"Milosevic must be removed from power, while a strong leadership must take over, to satisfy the demand of the people for changes and bring peace and stability in the Balkans," said Karadjordjevic, who helped organize the conference.

Alex Rondos, Foreign Minister George Papandreou's aide on humanitarian issues and Kosovo, represented the Greek government at the conference as an observer.

Papandreou met with the opposition leaders after the conference and expressed concern about the latest developments in Kosovo and the serious difficulties faced by Serb opposition forces in forming a common political platform for national elections.

The Greek minister said Greece was making an honest effort to help the Serb opposition promote itself with the goal of holding free elections, one of the preconditions set by the West in order for the sanctions to be lifted against Belgrade.

Papandreou also presented specific measures for the normalization of the situation in Kosovo and the peaceful co-existence of Serbs and Kosovars.

Former conservative Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis also met with Papandreou and expressed his concern about the current situation in the Balkans.

Mitsotakis called on the Greek government to take more "serious and steady decisions" about promoting Greek views on the region.

Meanwhile, at a sermon Sunday in the Athens suburb of Dafni, Archbishop of Greece Christodoulos said the bombing of Serbian targets last year by NATO was "aimed at eliminating the Serbian community under the pretence of restoring order in the Kosovo region."

The Archbishop called for stronger ties between the Greek and Serbian people who share the same religion.

China protest

Also over the weekend, 20 human rights protesters staged a mock execution at the foot of the Parthenon temple as visiting Chinese President Jiang Zemin toured the site.

The protestors were members of the local Amnesty International branch which called on Greece to publicly condemn what it describes as China's deteriorating record of executions and detention of political dissidents.

Jiang was the first Chinese president to visit Greece and talks between him and the Greek government centered on cooperation in trade and tourism.

"The contracts and exchanges of our two people go back in the depths of centuries," Jiang said in an arrival statement. "China and Greece have broad common interests in the high work to promote world peace and development."

Jiang left Greece for South Africa Monday, the next stop of his world tour.