BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Serbian Communist Party leader Slobodan Milosevic said in an interview published Saturday that a constitutional crisis could result from a crucial Communist Party Central Committee meeting beginning Monday.
The communist leadership of Yugoslavia's six republics and two provinces were completing their preparations for the summit, holding regional leadership meetings and hinting a number of top-ranking officials are expected to resign from the 165-member Central Committee amid the country's worst economic and political crisis in four decades.
In an interview with the Vienna magazine 'Die Wochenpresse,' Milosevic, leader of Yugoslavia's largest republic of Serbia, said 'of course there will be a constitutional crisis' if Serbia is not given greater control over its two autonomous provinces, adding 'I hope the crisis can be resolved.'
Although he did not elaborate, among Milosevic's demands is an amendment to Yugoslavia's 1974 constitution that would give Serbia more judicial and administrative control over its autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. Of Yugoslavia's six republics, only Serbia has autonomous provinces.
Milosevic, 47, told the magazine that 'the moral and economic crisis is worsening from day to day' in the country.
He blamed 'good-for-nothing' bureaucrats for 'stealing time while pretending to work' in a country grappling with an inflation rate of 217 percent and a plummeting standard of living that has led to mass demonstrations in recent weeks by pro-Serbia supporters loyal to Milosevic.
At least three mass rallies were held Saturday in Serbia, with the biggest in Leskovac, 155 miles southeast of Belgrade, where more than 200,000 people demonstrated in support of Milosevic and his policies.
The protesters blamed the leaders for the economic and political crisis in the republic and in Yugoslavia.
In Titograd, the Communist Party Central Committee of the Montenegro Republic granted a confidence vote to its eight-member presidium Saturday, leaving the ruling body in power contrary to demands for its resignation from Milosevic supporters, a Montenegrin official said.
Serbian leaders have accused the 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo of committing crimes against the Serb minority and their property -- charges which Kosovo's Albanian population have strongly and repeatedly denied.
Milosevic denied allegations that he is leading a dangerous nationalistic movement against Kosovo's Albanians, or that he is intent on making Serbia the predominant power in Yugoslavia. 'The battle for the rights of the Serbian nation is not nationalism but patriotism,' he said.
Slovenian Communist Party leader Milan Kucan Saturday accused Milosevic of deceiving people by offering them illusions about an easy way out of the economic crisis.
'There have been mass rallies in recent months which put aside the development, economic and social problems. It is easy in hard times, when prices go up fast and the living standard falls down, to take masses into the streets.
'To these people an illusion is created that to solve the problems urgently it is enough to have a will. This is deceit of people particularly there where little or nothing has been done for their own benefit. But, the responsibility for optimistic promises remains,' said Kucan, leader of the richest and most liberal of Yugoslavia's six republics.
Kucan and Miloc are to play major roles at the Yugoslav ruling Communist Party Central Committee meeting opening Monday in Belgrade.
'It is really necessary to check out the responsibility of officials at the session (Monday) but we must not give in to public pressure and destructive powers of accusations without evidence,' Kucan said.