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Rally shakes local Yugoslav leaders

By
NESHO DJURIC

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- About 50,000 people rallied in the city of Novi Sad on Wednesday to demand the resignation of provincial and local Communist Party leaders, media reports said.

'We shall topple the government in Novi Sad,' the crowd chanted, according to radio and television reports from the city, 50 miles northwest of Belgrade.

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There were no reports of violence.

The demonstrators demanded the resignation of party leaders in the province of Vojvodina and Novi Sad amid charges they sought to secede from Serbia. Novi Sad is the chief city of Vojvodina, which has a large Hungarian-speaking minority.

Vojvodina is an autonomous province within Serbia, the biggest of Yugoslavia's six republics

Ethnic tensions also have flared recently between Albanian separatists and Serbs in Kosovo, another autonomous province in southern Serbia.

Under constitutional amendments being worked out, Serbia plans to take over control of the police and courts from the governments of Vojvodina and Kosovo.

The Vojvodina leadership ignored the demands of the demonstrators but decided to meet in a special session Thursday.

In Belgrade, which is the capital of both Yugoslavia and Serbia, the ruling Communist Party presidium met in a special session Wednesday night, officials said. The Serbian party leadership will meet in a special session Thursday.

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The huge rally came amid attempts by Serbian Communist party leader Slobodan Milosevic to strengthen Serbia, which has earned him popularity among Serbs.

But leaders in Slovenia and Croatia, the two wealthiest and most liberal republics in the Yugoslav federation, apparently are against Milosevic's goals to create a stronger Serbia.

At the same time, the Yugoslav leadership has been under attack by workers who have been demonstrating for higher wages because of a 200 percent annual inflation rate that has eroded the buying power of the Yugoslav dinar.

About 2,000 workers staged a peaceful protest march in Belgrade Wednesday in the second successive day of labor unrest in the capital.

Yugoslav Communist Party President Stipe Suvar will convene the party's Central Committee in a special session Oct. 17 to consider both the economic crisis and the recent unrest in Kosovo. Suvar said there may be a major shakeup in the party leadership at the forthcoming session.

The rally began in Backa Palanka, 25 miles west of Novi Sad, in the morning when about 4,000 workers protested statements by the Vojvodina Communist leadership Saturday that allegedly backed secession from Serbia.

The crowd swelled to more than 10,000 people by noon and the demonstrators set out for Novi Sad on foot, by bus and car. By the time they arrived in the city, the demonstration had grown to 30,000 people. They gathered first in front of the Vojvodina sports hall then moved on to government and Communist party headquarters.

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By nightfall, about 50,000 people were taking part in the demonstration, media reports said.

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