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Yugoslavians Urged to Join Reform Effort : Party Chief Warns Mass Protests Are ‘Leading Us Nowhere’

Associated Press

The Communist Party chief urged the nation today to unite behind reform or face destruction, but one regional leader defiantly defended ethnic rallies that have fueled the nation’s worst postwar crisis.

Several weeks of ethnic and economic unrest and disputes among Yugoslavia’s six republics and two autonomous provinces have prompted speculation of a military coup, but the defense minister sought to allay those fears.

National party chief Stipe Suvar opened a key session of the party’s Central Committee with a call for “a fundamental renewal of socialism” and urgent economic and political reforms.

“All of us in this country are faced with a choice--either we all resolve the crisis together, or we all head to destruction,” he said in a two-hour speech.

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The meeting was billed as a historic gathering to shake up the party leadership, but it was not immediately known whether it made major personnel changes.

“All the incompetent and compromised people must go, and this society must be ensured of a perspective,” Suvar said.

Mass rallies by hundreds of thousands of Serbs have backed demands for more control over the Serbian republic’s two autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo. Serbs allege that the 90% ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo is harassing the Serb minority.

Protest Taken to Streets

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Workers battling 217% inflation and austerity measures imposed to curb a $21-billion debt have taken to the streets and shouted that communist leaders are corrupt and inefficient.

Suvar demanded an end to “reckless confrontations” and said the mass rallies “are leading us nowhere.”

But Serbian party chief Slobodan Milosevic defended his drive to extend Serbian control over Vojvodina and Kosovo.

“Any banning of the meetings is unacceptable,” he declared.

Milosevic told the Central Committee that Yugoslavs won’t accept another “marathon, sclerotic session” that does nothing to ease nationalist tension and economic hardship.

He said “Serbia has no claims to the territory of other republics. It does have claim to territory in its own republic.”


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