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Wednesday, April 28, 1999 Published at 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK

World: Europe

Analysis: Cracks in Belgrade leadership

Vuk Draskovic addresses the crowds during opposition protests in 1997

By South-east Europe analyst Gabriel Partos

Kosovo: Special Report
In recent days Vuk Draskovic has been sounding more like the opposition leader he was for nine years than the deputy Prime Minister he has been for the past three months.

Mr Draskovic lashed out against those in the leadership who he claims have been lying to the people by suggesting that Russia would help Serbia, that Nato is facing defeat and public opinion around the world is supporting Belgrade.

His comments prompted British Defence Secretary, George Robertson, to say the Yugoslav leadership was beginning to crack under the pressure of Nato's air strikes.

Seeking a UN role

Not for the first time Mr Draskovic also went against the official Yugoslav stand - which was restated after the latest abortive Russian peace mission - that no international peacekeeping force is to be deployed in Kosovo.

Vuk Draskovic: "Settlement must involve the UN"
In a BBC interview Mr Draskovic made it clear, though, that such a force must exclude Nato countries after what he described as their aggression against Yugoslavia:

"I would like to have UN forces without forces from Nato countries - we must approach a settlement and a settlement must be based on the resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations."

'Most serious attack'

Mr Draskovic had remained a semi-detached member of the Yugoslav government since he was co-opted into its ranks by President Slobodan Milosevic to help project the image of national unity over Kosovo. But his comments in an interview on on the Belgrade television station, Studio B, proved too much for the rest of the leadership to stomach.

Apart from Mr Draskovic, no one else in or near the leadership has been prepared to express such views in public, though a prominent opposition leader, Zoran Djindjic, did say in an interview with the British Sunday newspaper, The Observer, that some kind of international troop presence would need to be deployed in Kosovo.

Although among the leaders Mr Draskovic may have been a lone wolf in public, it is quite likely that influential figures in Serbia's closely-linked political and business establishments as well as among the army top brass still share his misgivings in private about Mr Milosevic's inflexible policies.

Serbian politics set for change

The generals and the business executives see their assets and wealth - army facilities and factories - being destroyed night-after-night through Nato's bombing.

After a while, just like Mr Draskovic, they may want to adopt a more flexible approach to get peace. In the absence of any meaningful political opposition, these could be the people who might try to oust President Milosevic from his position in power.

Large-scale opposition difficult

Before, his dismissal Mr Draskovic had warned that he would bring demonstrators to the streets if President Milosevic tries to take over Studio B. But in the current climate of war and unity around the leadership, opposition demonstrations would be unlikely to attract much support.

It is more likely that in the longer term, once Serbia looks the expected military defeat in the face, a substantial part of the population would want to oust President Milosevic as the man responsible for their country's devastation.

And it would be at that stage that Mr Draskovic might still hope to present himself not as the opportunist who joined President Milosevic's government but as the one-time opposition leader who had the courage to criticise the leadership from within the government.

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