CEOL
Serb activist stabs officer in Vojvodina

BELGRADE, Sep 14, 2000 -- (Reuters) Police said on Wednesday an opposition activist had stabbed an off-duty police officer in northern Serbia after the policeman said he was a member of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party.

In a statement carried by the independent news agency Beta, police said they had arrested Cedomir Rkman, a member of the opposition Democratic Party, for the attempted murder of Rade Ribic in the northern province of Vojvodina late on Tuesday.

The statement said Rkman stabbed Ribic twice in the stomach after he refused to accept opposition election propaganda material and said he was a "young Socialist".

Ribic, a member of the border police who was off duty and wearing civilian clothes, was hospitalized after the incident in Kljajicevo 160 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of Belgrade and was reported to be in critical condition, the statement said.

The Democratic Party's president, Zoran Djindjic, condemned the attack, saying that "politics should not be cause for violence".

A local Democratic Party office spokesman told independent B2-92 radio he knew of no political reason for the incident.

"But a moment of provocation and heated passions, they are, unfortunately, too frequent these days," Milan Stepanovic said.

"Whether in self-defense or not, something still difficult to (ascertain), Rkman pulled out a knife and inflicted very serious injuries to that man," Stepanovic said, adding he hoped Ribic would survive.

OPPOSITION PARTY INVESTIGATING

Earlier, an official from the Democratic Party said it was investigating the incident.

"Rkman was putting up posters when a man approached him, asked him what he was doing, tried to take away the material and pushed him," the official said, declining to be named.

"We don't know if the stabbed guy was a policeman or the son of a policeman," he said.

Police said it had arrested Rkman after a brief chase and found a knife and propaganda material from the Democratic Party, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia bloc and the student-based Otpor (Resistance) movement on him.

This was the first such reported incident since Milosevic called federal Yugoslav presidential and parliamentary elections as well as local polls in Serbia for September 24.

The government regularly accuses its opponents of being agents of NATO, which it says is out to finish the destruction of the country it began with air strikes last year to force Milosevic to withdraw his forces from mainly Albanian Kosovo.

State Radio Belgrade carried a commentary on the reported incident, accusing the Democratic Opposition of Serbia and Otpor of wanting to overthrow the authorities by force, Beta said.

Police have regularly detained and sometimes beaten opposition activists, particularly Otpor members and supporters, in the run-up to the elections.

In another incident reported by Beta, Otpor activists in Kraljevo, south of Belgrade, said they would file charges against the president of the young Socialists there for kicking one of their activists, who was putting up posters at the time.



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