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Milosevic Calls For New Vote Following Opposition Victory

By Keith B. Richburg

and David Hoffman
THE WASHINGTON POST -- PARIS

With the Yugoslav opposition claiming victory in Sunday’s presidential election, European governments appear to be moving rapidly to try to recognize that claim and begin considering how to reintegrate Yugoslavia into their fold -- all while President Slobodan Milosevic remains in power, vowing to conduct a runoff election.

France, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, has been out front, formally asking European officials to begin working on a detailed plan for lifting sanctions against Yugoslavia even before the situation in Belgrade is fully resolved. The goal appears to be twofold: letting Yugoslavs see the immediate economic benefits that await them once Milosevic is gone, while increasing pressure on Milosevic to go, and go soon.

Yugoslavia’s Federal Election Commission declared opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica the victor by 10 percentage points but scheduled a runoff ballot on Oct. 8 because, it said, neither candidate received a majority of Sunday’s vote. The opposition claims Kostunica won outright with 52.54 percent of the ballots cast.

On Wednesday, French President Jacques Chirac called for a “change of attitude” toward Yugoslavia. And Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, the EU executive body, said the EU is working on plans to begin rebuilding Yugoslavia’s battered infrastructure.

But if the goal is public pressure, France received little support Thursday from Moscow, where Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Russia has no intention of trying to force Milosevic to step aside.

“Russia will not exert pressure on anyone in Yugoslavia,” Ivanov was quoted saying after a meeting between French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “It is a purely domestic Yugoslav affair.” Reflecting a more cautious approach on sanctions, Clinton endorsed lifting of the measures as soon as a democratic government takes power.