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New Party Leader Elected

May 18, 1989

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Milan Pancevski took over Wednesday as chief of the ruling Communist Party in place of Stipe Suvar, who resigned to take a seat in the country’s collective state presidency.

The change took place at a plenary session of the party’s policy-setting Central Committee meeting to discuss the tense situation in Yugoslavia’s strife-torn southern province of Kosovo.

Pancevski, 54, from the southern republic of Macedonia, will head the party until June next year in accordance with the country’s practice of rotating top state and party jobs annually.

Suvar, whose one-year term as party leader was to expire in June, now represents the republic of Croatia in the eight-member state presidency. A party regulation adopted last year forbids officials from holding state and party jobs simultaneously.

The state presidency is the collective head of Yugoslavia and oversees the country’s defense, internal and foreign policies. The party’s Presidium (Politburo) decides on all major political issues.

Last spring, the presidency imposed a state of emergency and a curfew in Kosovo after more than 60,000 ethnic Albanians rioted there against constitutional changes that gave the country’s largest republic of Serbia more control over Kosovo.

At least 25 people, including three policemen, died in the clashes between ethnic Albanians and security forces in Kosovo last month.

The state of emergency, the subsequent jailing of more than 800 Albanians and the fate more than 200 people who have been detained without charges in Kosovo triggered strong criticism from intellectual, dissident and liberal opposition groups in the country.

During Wednesday’s session, Central Committee members clashed over the ways to solve the crisis in Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians form 85 percent of the population.

The meeting underscored a continuing feud between liberal and hard-line factions within the leadership.

Nijaz Skenderagic from the central republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina told the gathering that ethnic Albanians ″have a feeling that they are second-rate citizens in Yugoslavia″ and criticized political persecution and isolation of Albanians in Kosovo.

His statements drew an angry response from senior orthodox Serbian Communists, who rejected them as based on ″official Albanian propaganda.″

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