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Yugoslavs, Soviets Sign Declaration

March 15, 1988

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Mikhail S. Gorbachev stood at the grave of Josip Broz Tito today, paying tribute to the man who broke ties wth Moscow and led his country on a path similar to the one the Soviet leader seeks to follow.

Gorbachev also agreed to a new declaration with Yugoslav Communist Party chief Bosko Kruni that is expected to chart a new course for relations between Moscow and this nation, which broke with the Soviet bloc in 1948.

The declaration incorporates previous documents from the 1950s, when Nikita S. Khrushchev mended relations with Tito. Gorbachev is the first Soviet leader to visit since Leonid Brezhnev attended Tito’s funeral in 1980.

Gorbachev and his wife Raisa also planted a tree in Belgrade’s Park of Friendship, established in 1961 after the first conference of the non-aligned movement. The Gorbachevs joked and chatted with a group of children who gathered around the larch tree before posing for photographs.

″I think some of the things we are doing during this visit will be of great significance for our mutual relations,″ he told reporters, describing the atmosphere as ″businesslike.″

Monday’s talks with Yugoslav leaders produced ″deep understanding″ between the two sides and ″we felt that there is a need for joint action in the future,″ he said. ″We got off to a good start,″ he added.

On Monday, Gorbachev said ethnic minorities that rioted in his country are raising longheld grievances, not challenging the Communist government.

At least 32 people were killed in the Azerbaijan city of Sumgait in fighting two weeks ago between Azeris and their Armenian neighbors, who have staged mass street protests in recent weeks.

″Show me the country in which there are no such problems. If you show me, I will travel there right away, without stopping in Moscow on return from Yugoslavia,″ Gorbachev told reporters on Monday.

In talks Monday with Yugoslav leaders, the Soviets stressed that no Communist nation has an absolute model for building socialism, Soviet deputy foreign minister Vadim Loginov said.

Gorbachev showed the Western politician’s touch he has exhibited on previous trips abroad, stopping his motorcade Monday to shake hands with Belgrade residents and chatting at a photo session.

Yugoslavia, a federation of six republics and two autonomous regions, has wide ethnic, linguistic and cultural differences among its own bickering minorities. Yugoslavia’s assistant foreign minister, Ilija Djukic, said the nationalities problems was raised only briefly during Monday’s talks.

He quoted Gorbachev as saying in a discussion of social problems that ″there are no problems that would be solved once and for all, that conditions change, that everything requires improvement ... including the question of nationalities.″

Djukic and Loginov told a news conference Monday that the first round of talks was frank but very cordial, and that the two sides agreed Soviet premier Nikolai I. Ryzhkov will visit Yugoslavia at a future date.

That visit is likely to focus on the problems plaguing the extensive trade between the two nations.

Since the 1950s, when Khrushchev lifted an economic blockade imposed on Yugoslavia by Josef Stalin, the Soviet Union has become Yugoslavia’s biggest trading partner. Moscow delivers crude oil and other materials to Yugoslavia in exchange for manufactured goods, including shoes, clothes and technology.

The recent drop in oil prices has led to an imbalance as the Soviets refused to increase quantities of crude oil exports.

There has been speculation that the Kremlin’s $1.4 billion paper debt to Yugoslavia in trade may be compensated by the Soviets building a subway to free Belgrade’s traffic-clogged streets.

Loginov said on Monday the Soviets are studying in detail the system of worker self-management Yugoslavia evolved under Tito, and will incorporate any relevant features in Gorbachev’s own program of Kremlin reforms.

The system by which workers nominally run Yugoslav enterprises has looked increasingly frail in the 1980s, when triple-digit inflation, rising unemployment and a $20 billion debt have made the boom of the 1970s a distant memory.