BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Demonstrations sparked by ethnic tensions and soaring inflation rocked multi-national Yugoslavia Thursday amid political squabbles that prompted two communist officials to resign key posts.
As part of continuing protests in two autonomous provinces in the republic of Serbia, an estimated 30,000 Serbs demonstrated to demand that communist authorities protect them from ethnic Albanians.
In another protest, 5,000 workers from about 100 factories gathered in Belgrade's industrial suburb of Rakovica to protest the country's present political and economic situation. Yugoslavia has Europe's highest inflation rate -- nearly 200 percent annually -- and its standard of living has dropped 40 percent in the past eight years.
The workers accused local bureaucrats of breaking the nation of 23 million people into separate, small states.
The Serbs gathered at a 'rally of solidarity' in the town of Sremska Mitrovica, 43 miles west of Belgrade, demanding that authorities stop moving Serbs and Montenegrins from their homes in southeastern Kosovo province. An estimated 90 percent of the province's 1.8 million people are ethnic Albanians.
Posters at the rally proclaimed 'Kosovo is Serbian, Vojvodina is Serbian,' and 'We want freedom.' Kosovo and Vojvodina are autonomous provinces within the republic of Serbia.
About 30,000 Serbs and Montenegrins have left the two provinces since ethnic Albanian separatists staged bloody riots in 1981, according to central government statistics. In the past seven years, Kosovo courts have sentenced about 1,500 Albanian extremists to jail terms ranging from one to 20 years for assaults on Serbs and Montenegrins.
The Rakovica workers condemned 'barriers and artificial frontiers with which leaders have split us and isolated us.'
In a related development, Gen. Dusan Pekic announced his resignation Thursday as secretary of the Yugoslav World War II Veterans organization following a squabble with Gen. Petar Matic over federal policy toward the provincial conflicts.
Matic resigned Wednesday as president of the Yugoslav Veterans organization after widespread criticism in the news media of his reportedly separatist stands.
Stipe Suvar, president of the ruling Yugoslav Communist Party, said in remarks broadcast on Belgrade television that many people claim 'problems and difficulties in Yugoslavia stem from the fact that it is led by incapable collective leaderships that are irresponsible and powerless.'
He acknowledged that many Yugoslavs are seeking a leader to fill the vacuum left by the 1980 death of President Josip Broz Tito.
'We can understand such longings, but we must not expect there would be a possible savior,' Suvar said.
In an effort to avoid a power struggle among leaders of the country's six republics and two provinces, Tito set up a collective leadership that has been running Yugoslavia since his death.