VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- With Slobodan Milosevic's rule shaken by Serbia's withdrawal from Kosovo, an even more extremist and anti-Western politician is bidding to take his place.
After quitting Milosevic's government when NATO-led troops marched into the southern Serbian province, Vojislav Seselj is now poised to mount the greatest political challenge to the Yugoslav president since he came to power 10 years ago.If Seselj succeeds, it will put into place a nationalist leadership even more strident and anti-Western than the regime NATO just tried to bomb into submission.
Seselj (pronounced SHE-shel-ye), a 45-year-old lawyer and Serbia's acting deputy prime minister, launched his political career on his success as a paramilitary commander during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. Virulent in his support for a "greater Serbia," Seselj once declared his men would "take out the eyes of Croatians with rusty spoons."
NATO-led peacekeepers in Bosnia deemed his outbursts threatening enough to expel him from the country late last year.
When Western officials recently accused Serb troops of raping Kosovo women, Seselj denied it by saying they were too ugly for Serb men. On the eve of NATO strikes against Yugoslavia, he threatened that when "the first allied bomb" fell on the Serbian soil, "there will be no Albanians left in Kosovo."
His prophecy nearly materialized, when hundreds of thousands Kosovo Albanians were forced to flee Kosovo and thousands were killed by Serb troops.
With Serbia now defeated after 78 days of NATO bombing, its economy in tatters and the possibility of social unrest looming, many independent analysts compare it with Germany after World War I when Adolf Hitler came to power.