BELGRADE Yugoslavia -- Yugoslavia's eight-man collective presidency met Thursday to debate the Communist-led army's proposal to intervene in the nation's political crisis despite U.S. objections.
Protests were called off in Belgrade, capital of the Serbian Republic as well as all of Yugoslavia, but a new demonstration sprung up in Serbia's Vojvodina Province, maintaining pressure on the republic's Marxist government.
State-run radio said the eight-man head of state chaired by President Borisav Jovic opened its second session as supreme commander of the armed forces since the center of Belgrade was paralyzed by five days of protests by students and opposition supporters against the Marxist regime of Serbia.
The Belgrade protests had been called off by opposition and student leaders, who said to continue them would only hurt their cause now that the government of President Slobodan Milosevic had bowed to virtually all of their demands.
But later in the day, about 1,000 activists of the 10-party United Opposition of Serbia and university students rallied in Novi Sad, the capital of Vojvodina Province, 50 miles northwest of Belgrade, to demand the resignation of the provincial prime minister, Radoman Bozevic, a senior member of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia.
The demonstrators also called for a purge of top managers of the provincial broadcast and print media, a demand made by their colleagues in Belgrade of the capital's main television station, and vowed further protests if these demands were not met within 10 days.
The presidency meeting was expected to be stormy as the representative of Slovenia, Janez Drnovsek, said he had reconsidered a decision against attending and would join a majority of the body's members opposed to any involvement by the Serbian communist-dominated military in the country's political troubles.
Several of the seven members who attended a meeting Tuesday said a majority opposed an army request for the imposition of 'emergency measures' nationwide. They also criticized the calling of the session by Jovic, regarded as a close ally of the military's Serbian generals and Milosevic.
Vasil Tupurkovski, the representative from Macedonia, told the republic's state-run television Wednesday that intervention by the military, perceived by other ethnic groups as a guardian of the interests of majority Serbs, could ignite already smoldering tensions and tear the nation apart.
'Immediately would ensure the crash of Yugoslavia,' Tupurkovsky said.
Federal Vice President Stipe Mesic, the member of secession-minded Croatia, said the military contended that by intervening, it could create a more stable atmosphere for negotiations between the six republics on the future of the country, home to 23 million people from six main ethnic groups of three major religions.
In an interview Wednesday with Yutel, a fledgling national television network, U.S. Ambassador Warren Zimmerman reiterated that Washington supports a 'united and democratic Yugoslavia' that resolved differences with 'peaceful dialogue.'
But, he replied 'absolutely not' when asked if the United States would support Yugoslav unity gained by army intervention and 'by force. '
Many observers, including Western diplomats, fear that Serbian leaders and generals are seeking a state of emergency to prevent Mesic, a Croatian nationalist, from assuming the annual rotating chairmanship of the presidency from Jovic on May 15.
The dispute over the country's future mainly pits the nationalist Croatian and Slovenian governments, advocates of a dissolution of the federation into independent states, against Serbia and the military, which want to preserve a socialist six-republic federation in which Serbs would remain the majority.
Predominantly Roman Catholic Slovenia and Croatia charge that Christian Orthodox Serbia is seeking political and economic dominion over the nation. Serbia contends that the governments of its two rivals are participants of a plot to break Yugoslavia apart that also includes the Vatican, the United States, Muslim fundamentalists, and several of the country's neighbors.
Milosevic also indirectly charged that the Belgrade protests were mounted by Serbia opposition groups as part of the alleged conspiracy.
The demonstrations and the intersection occupation that drew tens of thousands of supporters ended after the release of some 100 people arrested during Saturday's clashes, which erupted when police tried to disperse a massive protest against Milosevic's control of the media.
The unrest, the worst since the end of World War II, left two people dead, scores injured and Milosevic facing the most criticial test of his political career.
The release of those arrested, including nationalist leader Vuk Draskovic, was one of the main demands of the students and the 10-party United Opposition of Serbia, which also won a purge of senior executives of Belgrade Television and a lifting of restraints on Belgrade's independent broadcasting station.
The regime also appeared to concede another demand, with Police Minister Radmilo Bogdanovic offering to resign and leaving a decision on his future to a March 20 session of the 250-member Serbian Assembly, in which Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia controls 194 seats.