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Djindjic's Assassination Widely Blamed on Organized Crime


The assassination Wednesday of Serbia's reformist Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic is being widely blamed on organized crime.

In Belgrade the youthful reformers behind the revolution that brought down Slobodan Milosevic two-and-a-half years ago are stunned by the assassination of Zoran Djindjic but hopeful that the democratic reforms he presided over will continue.

Milko Stimac is a top official of the Group of 17 Plus, an organization that helped in Mr. Djindjic's successful election in January, 2001, to head Serbia's first post-Milosevic government. Mr. Stimac is convinced that organized crime is behind the assassination.

"Yes, one can say so," said Milko Stimac. "To assassinate a prime minister you need an excellent organization. The only organization that can deal with such a task is organized crime. And as we all know before the changes of October 5, 2000 [the overthrow of Milosevic], organized crime was in fact part of the political regime of Slobodan Milosevic."

Mr. Stimac, speaking from Belgrade, sees little indication that forces associated with the past regime may be planning a coup d'etat. He says the reformist government is intact and making plans for an orderly transition.

"Well, the whole government is a reform government," he said. "We can discuss this ministerial post or another. But all together, to be honest, this is a reform government. So the government is still here and the government has called on the acting president of Serbia, who at the same time is the speaker of the Serbian parliament, Natasha Misic to proclaim a state of emergency. So in the next few days for sure, we'll see huge activities [drive] against organized crime."

Mr. Djindjic had over the past month won a significant victory over his main political rival, fellow reformist Vojislav Kostunica. With the transformation of Yugoslavia on February 4 into a new looser federation called Serbia and Montenegro, Mr. Kostunica had lost not only his job as Yugoslav president but also a political platform from which to challenge Mr. Djindjic.

The prime minister on February 21 had only narrowly escaped what is believed to have been an assassination attempt when a heavy truck careened into his motorcade near Belgrade airport. Mr. Djindjic has been promising to step up the government's drive against organized crime, particularly inside the police and judiciary.

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