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Yugoslavia’s Party Chief Goes on Offensive at Key Meeting

January 30, 1989

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ The Communist Central Committee today rejected demands to debate the resignation of party leader Stipe Suvar, who then went on the attack against hardline policies associated with his main rival.

Opening a meeting called to discuss the resignation demands and a possible shakeup in the ruling elite, Suvar criticized his chief political rival, Serbian Communist leader Slobodan Milosevic, without mentioning him by name.

″Socialist political pluralism or neo-Stalinism: those are the two alternatives″ offered by different factions within the party leadership as the way out of Yugoslavia’s economic and political crisis, the national party chief said.

The meeting of the policy-setting body is shaping up as a showdown between party liberals and the hardline coalition led by Milosevic, the party chief in the largest of Yugoslavia’s six republics.

Suvar today launched a scathing attack on what he called ″dogmatic″ policies generally attributed to the Serbian leader.

Milosevic’s supporters suffered an initial setback at today’s meeting. In a show of hands, participants overwhelmingly rejected a Serbian proposal to discuss demands for Suvar’s resignation.

In the speech that followed, Suvar called for more ″political pluralism, which is conditional on the competition of ideas.″ He contrasted that with ″the dictatorship of the Communist Party″ which would use ″bureaucratic’ ′ methods to run the country.

Suvar and several non-Serbian Politburo members have recently come under fire from Milosevic supporters for what they call anti-Serbian policies and for denouncing growing nationalism in the republic.

Milosevic’s supporters spearheaded a wave of nationalist Serbian protests last year that forced resignations of party leaders in several areas around the country. In addition to calling for party and economic reform, the protesters demanded more Serbian control in Kosovo province, where they say Slavs are threatened by an ethnic Albanian majority.

Suvar said growing nationalism creates worries for ″the survival of Yugoslavia.″

The late President Tito created the federal system that balances the competing ethnic groups in a loose federation of six republics and two nominally autonomous provinces.

In today’s speech, the party president painted the attack on him and other ruling Politburo members as a clash between different political and economic concepts of Yugoslavia’s future development.

The battle represents ″a fundamental dispute between reformist and anti- reformist forces″ within the party, Suvar said.

He is supported by the liberal northern republics of Slovenia and Croatia, which favor increased political pluralism, more democracy and radical market- oriented reforms.

Yugoslavia’s woes include a 250 percent inflation rate and a sharp drop in living standards in addition to an alarming increase in labor and ethnic unrest.

Milosevic, who has called for more centralized party control over the country’s affairs, draws his support from Yugoslavia’s poorer southern regions.

They fear that market-oriented reforms would end state subsidies for sometimes unprofitable industries and lead to many layoffs and more unrest.

In a clear reference to the policies of Serbia and Milosevic, Suvar said such people ″pay lip service to open markets and the restructuring (of Yugoslavia’s economy), while supporting obsolete industrial plants and subsidizing giant, unprofitable factories.″

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