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Military Vehicles Head Toward Mines Where Workers Holed Up

February 27, 1989

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Yugoslavia’s presidency imposed ″special measures″ in the southern province of Kosovo today as military vehicles moved toward a mine where 1,300 workers remained underground on strike.

Meanwhile, one of the miners’ primary demands was met when the province’s Communist Party leader, Rahman Morina, resigned, the Yugolsav news agency Tanjug reported.

There was no immediate response from the strikers, who had been holed up for eight days in the Trepca lead and zinc mines in Titova Mitrovica.

Military planes twice flew over Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, and armed vehicles were seen heading toward Titova Mitrovica.

Tanjug said ″the presidency of Yugoslavia today ordered that special measures be introduced in Kosovo for protecting the constitutional order.″

″The implementation of these measures was effective immediately. The public has not yet been informed of the precise measures involved.″

The agency did not give further details on the ″special measures.″

The announcement came after Tanjug reported the miners said they were cutting off outside contacts, except for medical assistance, until Morina stepped down.

He later resigned and Radio Belgrade quoted him as saying, ″I am deeply shaken that you consider me responsible for your lives and health. It is only for this purpose that I am submitting the resignation.″

But 800 miners from the Slav minority in Kosovo descended into another lead and zinc mine today and said they would remain underground if Morina stepped down.

Like the majority of miners, Morina is an ethnic Albanian. But the miners believe he is too supportive of Serbia, one of Yugoslavia’s six republics.

Kosovo is part of Serbia but is actually an autonomous province. The miners fear that proposals to change Yugoslavia’s constitution would increase Serbia’s control of the province.

Serbian leaders claim tighter control is necessary to protect the Slav minority, which claims persecution by the ethnic Albanians.

The ethnic Albanian miners also have demanded the resignations of Husamedin Azemi, the Communist Party leader in Pristina, and Ali Sukrija, a representative of Kosovo in the national party leadership.

Azemi also resigned today, citing ″moral considerations and ... blackmail.″ Sukrija can only submit his resignation to the federal leadership in Belgrade.

Earlier today, the Communist leadership of Yugoslavia appealed to the miners to ″stop imperiling your health and lives″ and come out of the mine, Tanjug reported.

At least 550 exhausted miners have requested medical assistance, the news agency said.

On Saturday, the presidency - a nine-man collective body that commands Yugoslavia’s armed forces - ordered greater internal security in Kosovo and extra police units were brought in.

More police than usual patrolled Pristina streets today, and soldiers guarded key buildings and army barracks. Police roadblocks were seen on some roads leading into Kosovo, travelers reported.

Riza Muslimi, a spokesman for the strikers, said Saturday that they had stashed two tons of explosives underground. He refused to say if they planned to blow up the mining complex if their demands, which include management changes at the mine, weren’t met.

Yugoslavia’s economy has deteriorated since 1980 and the nation’s standard of living has been in steep decline.

The jobless rate last year was 15 percent, and citizens staged huged demonstrations calling for changes in the nation’s leadership.

Update hourly