BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Yugoslavia's vice president said a critical meeting Thursday of the crisis-ridden country's senior political leaders was not likely to resolve the nation's growing financial morass because of major disagreements over economic policy.
Vice President Stipe Mesic said at a news conference Thursday serious differences over economic policy would pit the four republics with nationalist governments against Communist-ruled Serbia, Montenegro and the province of Vojvodina, and the Marxist-led military.
'I expect no results from this meeting,' said Mesic, Croatia's representative on the collective head of state. He is due to assume the nation's annual rotating presidentship in May.
He specifically targeted recommendations by experts commissioned by the current president, Borisav Jovic of Serbia's Communist Party, calling for keeping Yugoslavia's unique Marxist-variant economic system of social ownership, under which enterprises and property are managed by users and workers, but have no clear owners.
The meeting was called by the eight-man collective head of state to review federal economic plans for 1991 and the severe problems created for the national budget by the withholding of $1 billion in contributions by the governments of the republics because of their own precarious finances.
The session included the eight members of the state presidency, the presidents of five of the six republics, federal Prime Minister Ante Markovic and members of his Cabinet, an official statement said. It convened in the early afternoon, and there was no word on when it would conclude.
The meeting was also expected to discuss the festering dispute over the future political framework of Yugoslavia, which Croatia and Slovenia are demanding be converted from a federation into a confederation of independent states because of fears of economic and political domination by Serbia, the largest republic. Slovenia on Sunday approved a plebliscite on secession and said it will declare independence in six months if confederation is not approved.
Serbia's ruling Communists oppose confederation unless its borders are expanded to include Serbian enclaves in other republics.
Markovic was scheduled to present the results of the conference to a joint session of the federal Parliament on Friday afternoon.
Until the federation-confederation dispute is resolved, he wants the republics to end their violations of federal fiscal directives and other actions that have undermined his year-old program of reforms aimed at turning Yugoslavia into a Western-style democracy after 45 years of communist rule.
Among other acts, the six republics spent $16 billion more than the amount set in Markovic's anti-inflation policy, a key to his reform program.
Nationalists who ousted communists in Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Hercegovina earlier in the year support Markovic's moves to privatize large portions of socially owned properties, although they object to other parts of his program, particularly plans to boost the central government's monetary and taxation powers.
'The general disagreement is over the parts about social ownership and reprivatization. That is the part of greatest discord,' contended Mesic, who said that Yugoslavia would be excluded from the economic fruits of European integration if it maintained the social ownership system.
Social ownership is regarded by Western experts as a major cause of the republics' fiscal woes because it was used by their leaderships to maintain their power bases, with politically controlled banks for years financing inefficient and unprofitable enterprises through the unrestricted printing of money, which resulted in 1989 in hyperinflation.
Markovic has sought to uproot the system by restricting the money supply and other measures, forcing theclosure of hundreds of failing firms and banks and depriving the republics of revenues.
In an illustration of the tangle, Serbia's Communist regime Thursday asked the republic's single-party assembly to adopt a sweeping package of new taxes and tax increases totalling about $1.9 billion needed immediately to pay salaries, pensions and other social benefits and to bridge a deficit.
The regime, which is believed to be close to bankruptcy, also proposed a unilateral 25 percent cut in its tax contributions to the federal government.