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Yugoslav provincial Communist Party leadership quits as protesters clash with police

By NESHO DJURIC

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- The Communist Party leadership of an autonomous Yugoslav province resigned Thursday, bowing to the demands of 100,000 demonstrators who clashed with police in the streets of the provincial capital.

The protestors massed in cold and drizzly weather outside the regional Parliament building in Novi Sad, the capital of Vojvodina Province, 50 miles northwest of Belgrade, and faced hundreds of special police wearing steel helmets and carrying plastic shields who kept them from entering the building.

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Thousands of demonstrators, their impatience growing, had been there more than 35 hours to demand the resignation of the party leaders in a protest apparently sanctioned by the Serbian Communist Party.

At least 48 people were injured lightly, 42 of them protesters and six police, many by bottles and other objects hurled by the demonstrators, hospitals in Novi Sad said. Two other policemen were hurt seriously, they said. Some of the glass doors to the building were broken.

The protesters tried but could not break through a seven-police-deep cordon ringing the front of the building.

'There was a number of fractured limbs and several persons fainted,' a doctor in the Novi Sad medical emergency ward said.

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Inside the building, the chief of the Vojvodina Communist Party, Milovan Sogorov, and another 12 members of the ruling provincial presidium submitted their resignations under pressure of the two days of public protests and the Serbian Communist Party leadership.

About 50,000 people staged a similar demonstration in Novi Sad Wednesday, but no violence was reported.

The two successive days of demonstrations marked one of the biggest protests since the birth of Yugoslavia as a communist country in 1945 and was the first time in several protest meetings in the past three months that protesters clashed with police.

With the resignation of the Vojvodina Communist Party leadership, Serbian Communist Party chief Slobodan Milosevic won another round in his battle to gain undisputed control in Serbia by reducing the power and influence of Vojvodina and Kosovo, two autonomous provinces in Serbian territory.

Serbia is one of six Yugoslav republics.

The Serbian leaders in Belgrade, which is the capital of the Serbian republic and of Yugoslavia, accused the Vojvodina party leaders of siding with ethnic Albanians in the southern autonomous province of Kosovo. Both Kosovo and Vojvodina are in Serbia.

The Vojvodina party's Central Committee accepted the presidium's resignation by a vote of 87-10. The committee was expected to elect a new presidium.

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The party session was broadcast live on Yugoslavias'state-owned radio and television networks, but the protesters outside the building could not see or hear the session.

Speakers led the crowd in such chants as 'We want a united Serbia' and 'Serbia now divided in three parts will become one and united again,' radio reports said.

The Serbian party leaders expressed support for the demonstrations in Novi Sad and accused Vojvodina party leaders of 'failing to follow the wishes of the people.'

The Vojvodina leadership 'encouraged Albanian nationalism and separatists' when it refused to support recent mass rallies organized throughout eastern Yugoslavia to protest persecution of Serbs by ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, the Serbian leaders said.

Serbia is the biggest of Yugoslavia's six republics and is the only one that has two autonomous provinces on its territory.

Kosovo, about 90 percent ethnic Albanian, was the site of bloody anti-government riots when Albanian separatists demanded that the province be upgraded to a republic. Serbs in Kosovo have charged they are being persecuted by the Albanian majority.

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