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Reporters on the Job

Serbian Fantasies: Serbia is still having trouble emerging fully from the time warp into which it was plunged by war and international sanctions in the 1990s. But what staff writer Peter Ford found especially disconcerting while in Belgrade this past weekend was the conviction with which some supporters of Slobodan Milosevic expressed some very odd ideas.

Peter joined the people standing in the snow in front of the Museum of the Revolution - built to house relics of former Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz Tito. Inside, the Serbian Socialist Party had put Mr. Milosevic's coffin on public display. It was closed, and draped with a Serbian flag and red roses.

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Canvassing opinion in the queue of mostly elderly people waiting to pay their last respects to Milosevic, Peter heard that United Nations troops staged the 1995 massacre of thousands of Muslims in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica and then blamed it on the Serbs.

He was also told, more than once, that 40 percent of young Serb men are sterile as a consequence of democratic rule, and that Slobodan Milosevic never started any of the four wars except as defensive military action to protect ethnic Serbs from outside aggressors. "The fact that so many people hold so firmly to such fantasies is a measure of how far Serbia has to go before it achieves the reformers' dream of becoming a normal European country," says Peter.

And despite repeated requests for an explanation, no one could explain to Peter how democracy was supposed to make young men sterile.

David Clark Scott
World editor


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