Everybody leads with Slobodan Milosevic’s resignation as Yugoslavia’s president after 13 years of “heavy-handed rule” ( Washington Post) highlighted by “four wars, international isolation, a NATO bombing campaign and his own indictment on war crimes charges” (New York Times), all of which “turned his country into a war-stained international pariah” ( Los Angeles Times). The LAT gives the story a six-column-inch banner headline: “MILOSEVIC CONCEDES DEFEAT.”
Milosevic made a one-minute television address to concede that Vojislav Kostunica is the new president of Yugoslavia. Kostunica is expected to be inaugurated today. The LAT has the clearest summation of why Milosevic decided to step down: He lost the support of the country’s highest court, strongest ally (Russia), and military. The constitutional court reversed a decision it made two days earlier and recognized Kostunica’s victory in the Sept. 24 election. Everyone notes a Milosevic statement that is oddly reminiscent of statements made by deposed American CEOs: “I intend to rest a bit and spend some more time with my family.”
Milosevic also vowed that he would not vanish from the Yugoslavian political scene, and he pledged to remain as leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia. “And I am sure they will gain strength to such an extent that they will win convincingly in the next elections,” he said. The NYT, however, says it’s unlikely that the party will keep Milosevic as its leader for very long. The LAT says Milosevic showed no sign of wanting to seek asylum abroad, which might be explained by the NYT’s report that the Russian foreign minister assured him he would not be extradited for war crimes. The chief prosecutor at The Hague is willing to put Milosevic on trial, but Kostunica has said he will not turn him over. (The WP passes on a quote from the Yugoslav army chief of staff that makes Kostunica sound like the Yugoslavian Warren Harding; he wants to “return the country to normalcy.”) One LAT front-pager accurately calls Milosevic’s resignation the formal end of “the last Communist-style dictatorship in Eastern Europe,” but a separate political obituary gushes that Milosevic was “Europe’s last” murderous dictator. Can we really be sure there won’t be another?
Both the WP and the LAT front separate stories on the U.S. reaction to Milosevic’s resignation. The LAT reports that the U.S. expects to send diplomats to Belgrade within a couple of days, and that Madeleine Albright said economic sanctions would be lifted “as soon as it’s clear that Kostunica is in and Milosevic is out.” The sanctions include an oil embargo (which the NYT calls “toothless”) and a commercial flight ban (which is already suspended) that are expected to be lifted quickly. The NYT reports that the European Union may lift some sanctions as early as Monday. The LAT story includes a factoid that is a devastating assessment of Milosevic’s 13-year regime: Per capita income in Yugoslavia is less than 10 percent of what it was a decade ago.
The Milosevic story may affect the American political scene. Always on the lookout for a legacy, Clinton compared Milosevic’s resignation to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the papers report. And the WP reports that George W. Bush’s campaign is attacking Al Gore for dismissing Bush’s suggestion during Tuesday’s presidential debate that Russia should help mediate in Yugoslavia. “I’m not sure that it’s right for us to invite the president of Russia to mediate this dispute there, because we might not like the result that comes out of that,” Gore said. Except the Clinton administration “has been trying for weeks,” the WP reports, to get Russia to do exactly what Bush proposed. And Clinton himself obviously liked the result.
Hey Johnny, are you tough enough to pick up some pom poms? The NYT runs separate stories on two sports that just might make it into the 2004 Olympics: women’s boxing and cheerleading. Which do you think is more dangerous? The paper doesn’t bother to ask the question. But according to the director of a sports injury research center quoted in the cheerleading story, in cheerleading, “the chance of catastrophic injury is higher than in any other sport, including football.”