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Little Support on Street for Slovak Independence With AM-Czechoslovakia

June 9, 1992

BRATISLAVA, Czechoslovakia (AP) _ Their votes in this week’s elections may have put the Czechoslovak federation on a course toward separation, but few people in Slovakia were ready to begin the nation’s obituary Tuesday.

Many residents of the smaller and poorer republic predicted the nation would hold together, despite strong sentiment for greater Slovak autonomy and a statement from Premier Klaus that the federation was doomed.

Klaus made the comment after he and Slovakia’s new premier, Vladimir Meciar, failed to reach agreement on a future for Czechoslovakia.

″The majority of people, even those who voted for (Meciar’s) Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, think it would be better to live in a federation,′ said Marek Horvat, a 22-year-old student.

Polls indicate only a small minority of the 5 million Slovaks want outright independence from the larger and more prosperous Czech republic.

Meciar advocates more local sovereignty and an easing of market reforms to combat high unemployment and poverty in Slovakia.

He has promised a declaration of Slovakia’s sovereignty and a referendum on its future, but he has never said that he wants total independence.

Nonetheless, serious questions remain on whether he and Klaus can find common ground to keep the country together.

A Meciar supporter, 30-year-old film director Martin Sulik, said he believed the 74-year-old federation would survive in a different form.

He said Czechs and Slovaks could keep a common currency and foreign policy, and elect a president, while managing their economic affairs separately.

″A common state need not be a federation,″ Sulik said.

Klaus party spokesman Jiri Schneider indicated Tuesday that such a scenario was unacceptable, saying Klaus would insist on a common financial policy.

The pro-Klaus daily Telegraf newspaper suggested in a commentary that Meciar might lead Slovakia to a neo-Communist system.

But pro-Meciar commentator Igor Cibula, writing in Narodna Obroda, said Meciar only was interested in removing ″inequalities in the Czech-Slovak federation.″

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