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Thursday, July 15, 1999 Published at 22:15 GMT 23:15 UK

World: Europe

Serbs are free to gather again

While the deputies voted, pensioners demonstrated in Belgrade

The Serbian Parliament has formally repealed a number of decrees introduced during the Nato bombing, including a ban on public gatherings.

Kosovo: Special Report
A measure allowing police to conduct searches without a warrant was also lifted, as was another restricting the movements of people suspected of undermining the country's defence.

The parliamentary session came as the anti-government campaign continued to gather momentum across the country.

[ image: Hungry after a long demonstration]
Hungry after a long demonstration
About 10,000 protesters took part in an opposition rally organised by the Alliance for Change in the central Serbian town of Kragujevac.

High-ranking opposition leaders addressed the crowd in the town, which was bombed several times by Nato during the Kosovo conflict.

Leaflets handed out at the rally said: "Now is the time for the change. People of Serbia have the right to live in a rich and happy Serbia."

In the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, hundreds of pensioners marched to demand regular payment of their pensions.

Several pro-democracy activists were severely beaten while collecting signatures on a petition calling for the removal of President Slobodan Milosevic, an official of the Alliance for Change said.

In Vojvodina, four people were arrested for advertising an anti-government rally.

The opposition has vowed to keep up its protests against President Milosevic. It hopes they will lead to mass rallies on the streets of Belgrade.

Tax laws

[ image: The parliament approved the moves without delay]
The parliament approved the moves without delay
Although the Serb parliament lifted some of the war restrictions, it also passed a law endorsing a number of other emergency decrees on finances and taxes.

It said these were necessary to help the country's reconstruction.

BBC Belgrade Correspondent Jacky Rowland says the government places particular importance on tax and finance laws.

The opposition had argued that now the war was over, all the war decrees should be lifted.

Assembly boycott

A number of MPs showed their disapproval of the government by boycotting the parliamentary session.

The Serbian Renewal Movement led by Vuk Draskovic and the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians did not attend, while the Vojvodina Coalition walked out the assembly before the voting took place.

A leading member of the Renewal Movement, Milan Mikovic, said: "Passing laws is a serious business, which means that it cannot be done by giving the deputies the materials on the day of the session."

At the beginning of the meeting, it was announced that the New Democracy Party had been expelled from the Socialist-led ruling coalition.

The party's leader, Dusan Mihajlovic, said he was grateful that the Serbian Assembly had thrown his group out of the government coalition, the Serbian news agency Beta reported.

He said he was not surprised at the move, as the Serbian Radical Party had been demanding the decision from its partners "for a long time" .

But he said that revoking his party members' mandates as MPs was illegal, because a deputy's mandate only ended when he left his party, "and it is clear that we have not quit the New Democracy".

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