MITROVICA – A tense calm settled over northern Mitrovica yesterday as Kosovo Serbs in the divided city anxiously contemplated a future without Slobodan Milosevic in power in Belgrade.
Anti-NATO and anti-American slogans festooned the rundown enclave, where Serbs awaited a statement from the Yugoslav President. More than 100,000 have remained in the province since the NATO bombardment last year.
Supporters of Milosevic's main challenger, Vojislav Kostunica, thought victory was within their grasp. "Everyone in Serbia, except the old people, is for change," said a woman who gave her name only as Sandra, in the offices of the 18-party alliance known as the Democratic Opposition of Serbia. "For the first time in ten years we can look forward to a normal life. In Kosovo, we need peace between all ethnic groups — Serbs, Albanians, Turks and Romany."
Last night French troops were still on guard amid rolls of barbed wire on the bridge over the Ibar River that divides Mitrovica, and Serb "bridge-watchers" monitored traffic. Albanian workers were warned to keep out of the Serb side until tension spurred by Sunday's election subsides.
Supporters of President Milosevic, pointing to pictures of Kostunica in Belgrade newspapers, stopped a Western correspondent and said: "This man is a traitor who sold out to NATO. We can only trust Milosevic."
United Nations witnesses said they believed up to 45,000 votes had been cast in Kosovo. The U.N. had established the "witnessing" teams to discourage Milosevic from falsely claiming tens or hundreds of thousands of votes for him in Kosovo. There are believed to be up to one million Kosovan Albanians on Yugoslavia's electoral rolls, but only a few dozen Albanians were thought to have voted on Sunday.