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Government Pledges to Go Ahead With Reforms, Despite Party Deadlock With AM-East Germany, Bjt

January 21, 1990

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ The government Sunday pledged to adopt democratic reforms regardless of whether they are supported by the Communist Party, which was deadlocked in a key congress between liberals and hard-liners.

Communists from the liberal republic of Slovenia urged that the party transform itself into a loose coalition of regional Communist parties in this nation of six federated republics and two provinces.

Such a move would radically transform it from its traditional centralized federal party structure and would significantly reduce the power of the national Communist Party.

But opponents warn that party unity is vital to the unity of Yugoslavia, which is undergoing its worst economic crisis and is beset by ethnic rivalries.

Slovenian Party leader Ciril Ribicic also urged the congress to immediately adopt a key document declaring the party’s willingness to relinquish its monopoly on power and support free elections.

Slovenian delegates are fighting over the issue of political and party reform with their hard-line rivals in the largest state, Serbia.

Regional party autonomy has been rejected by the Serbians, who favor a strong centralized party structure and want slower political change.

Vice Premier Zivko Pregl warned that the government would not allow the fate of the country to ″be decided in quarrels among people representing 10 percent of the population,″ referring to the 2 million party members.

Pregl said the proceedings at the party congress would ″not in any way influence the government.″

On Friday, the government said it would present constitutional amendments to Parliament scrapping the party’s guaranteed leading role in society, and lay the legal groundwork for free elections due in April.

Pregl said the government would go ahead with these plans regardless of whether the party adopts the key draft document declaring its willingness to relinquish its 45-year monopoly on power.

The party would in future only ″be relevant to the extent they succeed in elections,″ he said.

Discussion of the political reform document was forced into the background as delegates engaged in a bitter war of words over the future of the party, a debate indicative of the deep split within the party.

Slovenian leader Ribicic said the Yugoslav Communist Party should ″become an organization of independent and free republican Communist″ parties.

Only then ″can we compete in a multiparty system on an equal footing with other regional parties in the struggle for power,″ Ribicic said.

There is a deep split within the party between those backing rapid political change in conjunction with economic reforms already under way and those reluctant to fully relinquish the Communists’ hold on power.

″No one wants to break up an organization such as this when it is most necessary because of the upcoming democratic reforms,″ said Sonja Lokar, a Slovenian party leader, in an apparent attempt to allay conservatives’ fears that the Slovenian proposal wiil lead to dissolution of the party.

Earlier Sunday, Serbia’s populist president, Slobodan Milosevic, reiterated his support for a strong Communist Party.

Milosevic charged that those seeking de-centralization of the Communist Party were calling for ″a war among Yugoslav Communists and ... a war among Yugoslav nations.″

″We don’t have a united Communist Party, it is only a farce,″ said Slovenian delgate Milos Ciric. ″We don’t want to impose our liberal model on Serbia, and we will not allow Serbia to impose its model on us either.″

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