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Thousands of high school students shunned classes today in a nationwide blitz of strikes and protests aimed at forcing President Slobodan Milosevic to accept election defeat.

The school boycotts preceded a large demonstration planned later today in central Belgrade to launch a mass protest movement.

More than 2,000 students waved anti-Milosevic banners and paralyzed the center of Nis, Serbia's third-largest city.

Similar walkouts -- joined by shopkeepers and others -- were staged in several other cities.

Today's rally in Belgrade's main square was planned to announce "concrete forms of defending" the election victory of Vojislav Kostunica, the opposition candidate whose party claims Milosevic lost Sunday's vote by 51.34 percent to 36.22 percent.

The government-controlled federal electoral commission admitted Kostunica soundly beat Milosevic but said he failed to get a majority to avoid a runoff election Oct. 8. Milosevic plans to run in the second round despite a certain boycott by opponents.

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