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Yugoslav leadership meets over political crisis

By
PATRICIA KOZA

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- The embattled Yugoslav presidency, meeting for the first time since it was disabled by a constitutional crisis last week, tried Thursday to resume deadlocked negotiations on the political future of the six-republic, multi-ethnic Balkan nation.

Seven members of the eight-man presidency attended the session, including federal President Borisav Jovic, the representative of the Serbian Republic whose resignation Friday ignited the crisis. The resignation was rejected Tuesday by the communist-dominated Serbian Assembly.

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Also in attendence was Yugoslav Kostic, the representative of Serbia's Vojvodina Province, who submitted his resignation -- yet to be accepted by the provincial legislature -- a day after Jovic. Only the Serbian-allied Montenegro representative, Nenad Bucin, who also quit, did not attend.

The meeting was also attended by the presidents of the six republics, Vojvodina and Serbia's ethnic Albanian-dominated province of Kosovo.

'All those who were invited attended the meeting except Nenad Bucin, ' the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug quoted state presidency officials as saying.

A source close to the presidency said the session would attempt to resume negotiations on the future political shape of the country, which nationalist-ruled Croatia and Slovenia want dissolved into independent states, and Serbia, the largest republic, wants to preserve as a socialist federation.

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The presidency has sponsored five rounds of talks this year to resolve the dispute that has helped fuel ethnic tensions and contributed to serious economic problems, but the discussions have remained deadlocked. Slovenia has vowed to secede by June 15, with or without an agreement.

Jovic, Kostic and Bucin resigned after the majority of the presidency rejected a Serbian demand that the military, which also opposes Croatian and Slovenian secession, be allowed to intervene in the crisis.

The resignations were seen by diplomats and others as an attempt by Serbia's ruling communists to provoke political paralysis that would force the Serbian Marxist-dominated military to forcibly preserve the federation dominated by the 8.5 million-strong Christian Orthodox Serbian majority.

The military balked, however, accepting a compromise worked out by federal Prime Minister Ante Markovic, who promised to push individual republics to release funds withheld from the army, a source close to the government said.

The extent of Markovic's involvement was indicated by a bitter attack on him by Jovic in a speech to the Serbian Assembly during the debate on his resignation. He accused Markovic, who is championing privatization as part of a Western-style economic and political reform program, of 'selling property to foreigners for practically nothing'.

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Markovic, a Croat, denied the charges late Wednesday in an appearance before the federal parliament and accused unnamed individuals of blocking his reforms in order to retain their power.

'No state has the right to impose its political option on another,' he declared, referring to Serbia.

Still unresolved was the question of Kosovo's representation on the presidency. The Serbian Assembly followed the resignations of Jovic, Kostic and Bucin by voting Monday to remove the provincial representative, Riza Sapunxhia, for joining the other republics in rejecting military intervention, crippling the presidency by blocking a quorum.

The other republics refused to recognize the ouster because constitutionally, it can only be done by the Kosovo Assembly, which Serbia dissolved earlier this year.

The Kosovo chair on the collective head of state Thursday was taken by the Kosovo province president, Hisen Kajdomcaj. The Serbian Assembly, meanwhile, resumed a debate on replacing Sapunxhia.

The leading candidate was Sejdo Bajramovic, an ethnic Albanian allied with the ruling communists who was elected in December to the Serbian Assembly from Kosovo with only a handful of votes because of a near- total boycott of the polls by ethnic Albanians.

In a related development Wednesday, the Yugoslav Parliament adopted a law to temporarily reduce federal spending from 40 to 34 percent of the gross national product.

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The law meets a crucial condition set by the International Monetary Fund for the conclusion of a new stand-by loan of $1 billion, part of a $3.4 billion aid package from the World Bank and other international lenders designed to help Markovic transform Yugoslavia into a market economy after 45 years of communist rule.

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