Milosevic Blinks

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BELGRADE, Serbia: Just as it appeared he was ready to use force to crush opposition and retain his hold on power, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic pulled back from the brink and said he will accept opposition victories in November's municipal elections. The move comes after two days of escalating violence as police cracked down on students demonstrating against his government. "This is the classic Milosevic two-handed approach: swat with one hand, stroke with the other," notes TIME Central Europe bureau chief Massimo Calabresi. The streets of Belgrade overflowed with cheering people Tuesday after Milosevic's decision was announced by the state-run news agency Tanjug. Fourteen cities, including Belgrade, will be handed over to opposition coalitions that won them in municipal elections. The move comes two months after a Serbian court annulled the results and 76 days after raucous and sometimes violent daily protests began in the streets of the capital. The main opposition group Zajedno hailed the announcement as a move in the right direction, but continued to call for more changes, including an end to restraints on the press and the arrest of police officers responsible for beating protesters.