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Monday, April 26, 1999 Published at 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK

World: Europe

Milosevic rival attacks Serb 'lies'

Yugoslav leaders: Under fire

The Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister, Vuk Draskovic, has hit out at the country's rulers, accusing them of deceiving their people about the war over Kosovo.

Kosovo: Special Report
Although he did not mention names, Mr Draskovic directed his comments at "certain forces" and "those who are running the country".

Mr Draskovic, a former opposition politician, is a long-standing rival of the hard-line Serb nationalist politicians who dominate the country's government.

Jacky Rowland: 'Well-known maverick'
In an interview with the private Studio B television station, Mr Draskovic dismissed as unrealistic the belief that Russia would intervene to help the Serbs overcome Nato - a view which Serbian nationalist politicians have used to drum up support.

"The men running this country must tell the people clearly where we stand and with whom we stand, tell them... what will remain of Serbia in 20 days if this dreadful bombing goes on," Mr Draskovic said.

[ image: Vuk Draskovic: His views are not those of the majority]
Vuk Draskovic: His views are not those of the majority
"We should tell them: 'Don't expect anything from world opinion, nor from the collapse of Nato, nor from Russia.'"

Although his remarks appear to have been aimed at the Yugoslav and Serbian leadership generally, Mr Draskovic insisted he was not criticising Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

He said that Russia would ultimately reach a compromise with Nato over Kosovo rather than risk a confrontation.

On the subject of international peacekeepers in Kosovo, Mr Draskovic spoke out in favour of a United Nations-led force with the involvement of Russia.

'Ready for Kosovo autonomy'

He also emphasised that Serbia was ready to grant autonomy to Kosovo, and reminded Serbs that no one had called for Kosovo to be separated from Serbia.

Mr Draskovic said there was no reason for Serbs to fear the return of Albanian refugees to Kosovo.

"We have to painstakingly work on building a trusting relationship," he said.

Minority view

Brian Hanrahan: "Vuk Drascovic joined the government with an important title but limited influence"
Our Belgrade Correspondent, Jacky Rowland, says Mr Draskovic's comments are likely to be seized on by Nato, which has been calling on opposition forces in Serbia to rise up against the leadership of President Slobodan Milosevic.

However, Mr Draskovic is known as a maverick who often makes provocative remarks in his interviews

As Nato's bombing campaign unites the population behind Mr Milosevic, fewer and fewer people are backing Mr Draskovic

The former opposition leader was only recently brought into government so that Serbia and Yugoslavia could present a united front in their conflict with the West.

He is a sworn rival of the Serbian prime minister, the ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj, with whom he exchanges regular rhetoric.

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