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Belgrade Announces Plans to Ease Austerity Program

Associated Press

The government announced plans to ease an unpopular austerity program today, three days before it meets to consider widespread demands for resignations in its leadership.

Deputy Premier Janez Zemljaric said Yugoslavia will import $600 million in emergency staples--triple the amount announced Oct. 8 by the government--to ease the worst economic crisis in the country in four decades.

Belgrade dailies said the government will also increase wages for workers in profitable companies and in social services.

The government imposed an austerity program last May designed to curb a $21-billion foreign debt and 217% annual inflation by reducing or freezing wages and allowing prices to rise.

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The new pay increases will be adopted by Parliament by the end of the month, the Belgrade dailies said.

The newspapers said the International Monetary Fund had approved the measures. The IMF and other Western creditors insisted on the austerity program before rescheduling debt payments and extending new loans.

The Central Committees of four of Yugoslavia’s six republics and of ethnically troubled Kosovo province met today to iron out political rifts before Monday’s meeting of the policy-setting national Central Committee.

National party chief Stipe Suvar has promised a shake-up of top personnel after three months of the economic and ethnic protests.

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During the Kosovo meeting, Communists representing the province’s ethnic Albanian majority and others from its Slav minority clashed on several issues, Belgrade radio said.

Serbians have demanded more control over their autonomous province in mass rallies and prompted an unprecedented power struggle. The mainly Christian minority accuse mainly Muslim ethnic Albanians of harassment.

At the Kosovo meeting, Serbian and Montenegrin representatives demanded the resignation of the province’s mostly ethnic Albanian communist leadership, the official news agency Tanjug said.


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