Leader of the Democratic Party Zoran Djindjic has sought security and space for political engagement outside Belgrade in the immediate political and physical presence of the President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic. Reporter made the interview with Djindjic in Podgorica between two attacks of the Serbian state-run television (RTS) on him and Djukanovic in which they have been labelled as "traitors" and "members of the fifth column". A correspondent of the German magazine Spiegel, Renata Flotau, described his last days in Belgrade in the following way: "He works for a day and then takes cover in a private bunker for four or five days. But, not from NATO bombs. As a former major of Belgrade he kept good contacts with some members of the security police, who informed him that his name high on the list for liquidation made up by the regime". Among other Djindjic and Djukanovic were threatened by the regime because of their programatic text under the title "Yugoslavia after the war", which has been published in New York Times. In the article, they say: "If the signing of a peace agreement brings an end to the war and Slobodan Milosevic remains in power, this tragedy and violence will continue".
Reporter: Many people in Belgrade interpreted this as your call on the International Community not to reach any peace agreement with Milosevic, which implies a continuation of the bombardment, even a ground intervention?
Djindjic: It has not been properly interpreted. I am advocating that a peace agreement be signed by Milosevic, but it is important that he is held accountable afterwards. He should be held accountable not only for this war, but for everything that had happened before. Also, he should resign and leave politics.
Do you see yourself as a Party leader in emigration, considering that you are not politically active in Belgrade?
If Montenegro is abroad, then I am in emigration. Let us not joke with RTS [Radio TV Serbia]. The campaign on RTS against me started after I had given an interview for BBC. You know, if someone asks Milosevic about the important political issues his reply is that you are a traitor. If someone asks him why he forged the election results, his reply is: "Why do you carry foreign flags?".
Did you not say for BBC that Milosevic should go to The Hague?
I literally said: "Should he be linked to the war crimes committed in Kosovo, then the Army members should not to go to The Hague, but the person who was in command. Therefore, Milosevic, bearing the blame as the commander in chief." But, I repeat, if there is evidence that the crimes have been committed. No one asks people here for an opinion and they should not be held responsible after the war for that. When we watch TV, no one knows what is going on [in Kosovo].
You also said for BBC that your life is in danger and that you do not go amywhere without a bodyguard?
Naturally. If the state-run television, which is known to be a personal television of regime, labels you as the fifth column, traitor and the foreign collaborator, you do not have to be very smart to see that your life is imperilled. Naturally, since the beginning of the war I have been receiving information that all this should serve as a pretext to sweep up the political scene in Serbia, so as not to leave any serious opponents after the war nor any witnesses of Milosevic's erroneous policy.
You took the threats seriously?
I give you one name - Slavko Curuvija. That is my shortest answer. Curuvija had been accused of supporting the NATO military assault and five days later he was lying on the pavement with 20 bullets in the head.
Do you have any information as to whether the authorities have been persecuting members of your party in Serbia since you moved to Montenegro?
At this time, a serious organization has the following options: to tell people the truth, to lie and deceive them, or keep one's mouth shut. I think that the Democratic Party is expected to tell the truth. We have been telling people the truth since the onset of the airstrikes and before the war both as the Alliance for Change and the Democratic Party (DS). On the third day of air raids the DS flag was burnt at Republic Square along with the American flag. That was broadcast on TV three times in the main news program. On the fourth day since the start of the air campaign it was announced that I had emigrated to Germany and the announcer demanded that I be banned from returning to the country. It certainly leaves the mark on DS in Serbia. Since the beginning of the NATO campaign many members of DS living in Serbia have been threatened: "When the war ends, we shall deal with you".
Do you have a feeling that you left your people in Belgrade and Serbia in the lurch?
Well, I do not know. We are not a kindergarten, so that daddy has to be there for people to do their job. DS is a normal organization in which plenty people do their jobs. The local branches are mostly dealing with the problems caused by the war. Our headquarters in Belgrade works also as a kind of information service for our members who are phoning and asking for information. There are no conditions for a further and wider action. I was in Belgrade for six weeks and it was widely believed in Serbia that I was abroad. Those who saw me in the street could not believe their eyes! My presence was not noticed then and my absence today would not have been noticed if it wasn't for the very systematic attacks.
Do you have any idea as to who exactly is the person who organizes the attacks against you?
The same those JUL (The Yugoslav Left) members who asserted that I was in Germany. All of the sudden they claim that I am in Montenegro. Suddenly, I am missed. I do not know why. Perhaps they would prefer to see me like Curuvija, dead on some pavement, but I am not going to help them.
A hitherto close associate of yours Miodrag Perisic says that you are in no greater danger than any other distinguished member of DS.
I would not like to comment on anyone's statements. I am doing what is rational and reasonable. I do not wish to satisfy anyone's psychological needs. My assessment is that my personal risk is not in proportion with possibilities of my engagement in Belgrade. My risk is too great and I cannot do much. I can do much more from Podgorica in regard to international contacts concerning the preparation of strategy for the time after the war. I absolutely do not see any reason why I should satisfy someone's whims and prove to someone that I am in more or less danger. No one on the political scene of Serbia has ever accused me of that playing safe. I was in front of tens of thousands of people for 88 days, at the sniper's gunpoint, in the front line facing cordons. The question of my personal courage has not been raised yet. Perhaps it will be raised, bit is has not been so far. As for my assessment in regard to what is rational, that is still my business. As for me, I do not allow someone else to suggest that I am more or less in danger. That is indecent.
Perisic claims that your time as the leader of DS is over and that the history of the opposition is - the history of defeat.
Well, O.K. That is his view. He is a vice- president of DS. According to the Statute, our congress should be held this year, if there is peace. I shall confirm his candidacy for that position with pleasure, adding that we founded DS in 1989 together and he has been in the leadership of the Party until today. He held more positions than I did. He even held a post in the [Yugoslav] Government. He was a Minister during Cosic's and Panic's term of office, and afterwards he was an adviser to the President. Should we weigh the responsibility in order to establish why the regime has not been overthrown duringthe last ten years, I would not know to which side the scales would tip.
If NATO should topple Milosevic, how do you view the establishment of new authorities?
NATO cannot topple Milosevic. Milosevic can only resign, which would be a better option for him, or we could remove him by raising the issue of his responsibility when the war ends. The election should ensue and political structure should be established in an organized way. This political structure should be capable of restoring the country, rebuilding the destroyed buildings and securing the return into the international organizations and Europe. But, it has to be done in accordance with people's will. Everything else would be an occupation.
How do you foresee the denouement of the situation in the FRY?
There are two scenarios. One is optimistic and that is that Milosevic very soon accepts the proposal of the International Community laid down in the text of Group G-8 or some other text, but only in order to continue with the peace process. The second option implies that Milosevic does not accept it and that we have an absolute catastrophe, ground troops and additional destruction of property, assets, and more fatalities with unforeseeable consequences in the next ten years. My impression is that the first option will prevail, although I have doubts sometimes...
Do you think that Milosevic will give in?
I think that there is a half-readiness for that in Belgrade. I can see that from various signals: the release of captive American soldiers, the letter to Clinton, the search for some contact. The statements coming out of Belgrade are not as hard line as they used to be in the beginning.
Is NATO prepared for that?
They obviously will not give up on three demands: withdrawal of most of our troops from Kosovo, arrival of some armed configuration of international forces and return of refugees. I believe that no compromise can be reached on that with them. One can gain a great deal from disarmament of UCK (Liberation Army of Kosovo), sovereignty of Serbia and the FRY, definition of self-government of Kosovo. Those are the points where one can still procure some benefits. One should be rational and see how long we can hold on, what will happen if the war drags on for one month, see what one can gain from all this and finally make the choice. Every day of war is thrusting us back in terms of our future development.
In which future will you return to Belgrade?
I came here on May 5 with the intention to return on Sunday May 9. On Friday evening RTS accused me of being a traitor. To be honest, this rather shook me up. The following day Djukanovic and I were attacked on RTS main news program and that definitely made me abandon the idea of returning home. Since NATO initiated the airstrikes, I have been several times to Podgorica and stayed there for a few days, which resulted in the creation of the text "Yugoslavia after the war" written by Djukanovic and myself. We demanded that the International Community alter the strategy for the Balkans and instead of crisis management accept long-term strategy of support for economic and political democracy. However, I am rather unprepared now and I am waiting for further developments. Something positive has to happen in Belgrade for me to decide to go there. I hope that some hint of a peace agreement could be that positive thing.
Therefore, you will not return to Belgrade until the war is over?
Or until the prospects for its end appear. I do not see any possibility that something special could be done in Belgrade while the war rages.
Why are you not in contact with the high officials of DS in Belgrade?
Who told you that?
You do not have contacts with vice-president of the Party Vuksanovic?
How do you know that?
I asked them and they told me.
Are you a member of DS?
It is the right time for you to become our member.
You have not answered my question.
No, I am not. I am not in contact with Vuksanovic, but I am in contact with Zivkovic, chairman of DS committee in Nis and its co-chairman Ljilja Lucic, who is the Party offices more or less the whole day. I hear from her every day. I am in contact with local authorities in Novi Sad, Pirot, Cacak, Kraljevo. Some of them come here and I am well informed about what is going on there.