CEOL - Rocking Serb economists mark New Year early

BELGRADE, Dec 29, 1999 -- (Reuters) Serb opposition figures turned to music to mark the dawn of the new millennium three days early on Wednesday, saying the country needed to move faster towards a new century and a fresh start.

Economists from an opposition network formed earlier this year joined musicians for an open air concert in Belgrade to try to forge an opposition force aimed at ousting Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

The main organizer was Mladjan Dinkic, a 35-year-old dissident economist who also plays bass guitar in a group called Monetary Shock.

"Let's sing together for a little while and then we'll overthrow the one who has been in our way all these years," Dinkic told a mainly young crowd of several thousand.

The performers quickly distinguished themselves from the country's squabbling opposition politicians, by starting their concert early, rather than up to an hour late like the ill-attended daily rallies held for almost three months from September.

Entering 2000 Three Days Early

"Let's enter the year 2000 three days before the deadline - because during the last 10 years we've lost almost the entire century. We have no more time to waste!" said a G-17 Plus statement explaining the early celebration.

The economists' opposition network of professionals is called G-17 Plus.

The concert, held under the slogan "New people for a new time", also had a much lighter touch than the nightly rallies across Serbia by the opposition politicians.

Those were marked by lengthy speeches blaming Milosevic's 10 years in power for a growing economic crisis and Serbia's international isolation.

At Tuesday's concert, singer Rambo Amadeus confessed to the lively crowd braving a cold winter drizzle that he'd had a few drinks.

"I was celebrating the first birthday of my son. I hope this is the last year under this regime for him...when he was only three months old he experienced bombing," he said, referring to the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia over Kosovo this year.

Pensioner Gordana Radic said she had come to support a group she felt could attract those disappointed by the opposition.

"I'm a bit old for the music!" she shouted over the noise.

Dinkic said after the concert ended with New Year countdown and a few fireworks that there was much more to be done.

"Next year we have to prove that we are able to change the regime and to change it, and finally to start working and living normally like other people in the world," he said, forgetting that he had already declared the start of the new year.

The Serbian Culture Ministry took over arrangements for the real millennium eve concert in Belgrade after opposition Serbian Renewal Movement, which runs the city council, pulled out on Friday, saying it did not want to spark a civil war.

The party, led by the charismatic but mercurial Vuk Draskovic, said it had heard pro-government political parties were planning their own concert for the same night and feared a clash between rival supporters - its most oft-cited reason for not adding its weight to the daily street protests.

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