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Tito’s Name Invoked in Yugoslav Political Flap

July 16, 1988

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Communist leaders of Serbia, the nation’s largest republic, exchanged barbed comments with their counterparts in two provinces Friday in a clash over ethnic rights and governmental autonomy.

Each side avowed that Yugoslavia’s late leader, Josip Broz Tito, would have backed its position.

Serbian officials said leaders of the autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo were exercising more autonomy than the constitution provides.

The provincial officials retorted that Serbia was trying to limit their autonomy by pressing for radical constitutional changes.

They traded charges at a marathon, 21-hour meeting of the Serbian Central Committee that ended Friday.

The Yugoslav constitution, adopted in 1974 under Tito, the father of communist Yugoslavia, granted wide autonomy to the six often fractious republics and two provinces. Although it remained communist, Yugoslavia broke from the Soviet bloc in 1948.

″It is clear that we have to stop (all attacks) on the 1974 constitution, because those charges represent attacks on Tito’s work,″ said Bajram Gasi, a Central Committee member from Kosovo.

However, Danilo Markovic, a delegate from Serbia, said Tito himself would have changed the constitution.

″We cannot say that we will not change anything just because it was adopted when Tito was alive,″ Markovic said.

The document is widely blamed for the country’s political and economic crisis. Yugoslavia is faced with Europe’s highest rate of inflation at 175 percent, a $21 billion foreign debt, falling standards of living and growing labor unrest.

The Serbian dispute also revolves around a longstanding ethnic struggle.

The Serbian Communist Party says the present constitution prevents it from exercising its rights and authority in the two provinces. It says it is kept from imposing tough measures against what it terms extremist ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Ethnic Albanians rioted there in 1981, demanding a separate republic. At least nine people were killed and 250 injured.

According to official news reports, about 30,000 Serbs and Montenegrins have emigrated from Kosovo since then, claiming discrimination by ethnic Albanians making up about 85 percent of the population.

Inspired by support from Serbian leaders, about 700 Serbs and Montenegrins from Kosovo demonstrated last Saturday in Novi Sad, capital of Vojvodina. They demanded that the two provinces reunite with Serbia.

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