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Balkan Leaders Upbeat About 2002 - 2002-01-01


Serbia's Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic delivered an upbeat New Year's message to his people, predicting a better future for the country. The prime minister's sunny outlook was reflected by the youthful crowds in the streets of the capital.

Snow and cold temperatures held down attendance at this year's New Year's eve rock concert in Belgrade's Republic Square. But the mostly young revelers seemed as joyous as they were a year ago when they were still celebrating the overthrow, three months earlier, of Slobodan Milosevic.

Prime Minister Djindjic was also optimistic in his New Year's address to the people of Serbia. While acknowledging that the work of economic restructuring will be very painful, he said much has been accomplished since parliamentary elections brought him to power one year ago.

Despite deepening conflict with his former ally, President Vojislav Kostunica, Mr. Djindjic does not foresee a collapse of his reform government nor the need for new elections in 2002. In his message, Mr. Djindjic reflected on a decade of dictatorship, isolation and warfare and said where Serbia once had powerful enemies it now has powerful friends.

Meanwhile, in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica, President Milo Djukanovic said 2002 will be the year of decision for his mountainous land, Serbia's only remaining partner in the Yugoslav federation. Mr. Djukanovic, who favors independence, promised a national referendum on the issue, which will probably be held in March or April. Serbia says it's up to the 800,000 Montenegrins whether they stay connected with Serbia.

In Macedonia, President Boris Trajkovski urged citizens - both Macedonian and ethnic-Albanian - to put aside anger and bitterness. He said with armed conflict and ethnic polarization, 2001 had been the most difficult year in Macedonia's ten years of independence. He expressed hope that all citizens of Macedonia will live together in peace.