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Yugoslavian Leader Quits, Adding to Country’s Woes

March 16, 1991

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Serbia’s hard-line Communist leader said today that he no longer recognized the authority of the federal presidency and that he was mobilizing the republic’s security force to halt unrest.

Slobodan Milosevic failed earlier in the week to force the eight-man presidency to declare a state of emergency throughout the country.

″Under the existing conditions, the republic does not recognize the legitimacy of the federal presidency,″ the Tanjug news agency quoted Milosevic as saying today.

He said he was ordering a mobilization of police reservists in Serbia, Yugoslavia’s largest republic, against unrest among ethnic Albanians in Kosovo province and Muslims in Sandzak.

There were no reports of any trouble in either area, however.

Tanjug said the presidency would convene later in the day.

On Friday, Borisav Jovic, the head of the collective presidency, resigned and today the military police moved into Belgrade - the capital of Serbia and the nation.

Jovic, a Serb, failed to persuade other members of the presidency to support a nationwide state of emergency, which he and Milosevic had sought to halt a week of anti-Communist demonstrations in Serbia.

His resignation created a constitutional crisis in Yugoslavia, already shaken by secessionist republics and unrest.

The presidency includes leaders from the country’s six republics and two provinces, and today the representative from Montenegro, Nenad Bucin, also resigned.

Reports said the leaders voted 5-3 against imposing the state of emergency. Montenegro, Serbia’s traditional ally, and the Serbian province of Vojvodina voted with Jovic.

″I am not ready to go along with decisions that are leading to the breakup of the country, with possible catastrophic consequences for its people,″ said Jovic, who had been chairman since last May.

Experts said there is no provision in Yugoslavia’s 1974 constitution for such a resignation.

Jovic’s move raised the stakes in the dispute between Serbia and the non- Communist republics of Croatia and Slovenia, which want the nation to break into a loose confederation of republics or, barring that, complete independence.

The army reportedly was placed on heightened alert today. Tanks maneuvered inside their bases on the outskirts of Belgrade and military police armed with automatic rifles took up positions inside the city. Witnesses and sources said leaves were canceled and officers ordered not to go home.

About 7,000 pro-Communist demonstrators rallied in Belgrade today in support of the army.

″The Yugoslav Army must be a guarantor of peace and civil liberties,″ said Dragan Atanasovski, leader of the League of Communists - Movement for Yugoslavia.

Under differing interpretations of the constitution, Jovic’s replacement can be Milosevic or Croatia’s representative on the presidency, Stipe Mesic. However, appointment of either man would anger residents of the other republic and further raise tensions.

Budimir Kosutic, a member of the federal parliament’s Constitutional Commission, told the Tanjug news agency that the supreme law ″does not regulate with a single word what exactly happens in case the president of the state resigns, and who in fact should accept his resignation.″ Parliament is the lawmaking body.

Jovic’s call for a state of emergency came after protests that began last Saturday. Since then, tens of thousands of anti-Communists have taken to the streets in Serbia to protest news censorship and to demand radical democratic change and new elections.

Clashes with police left two dead and 120 injured in the strongest challenge to Milosevic since he came to power in 1987.

In resigning, Jovic said the majority of the eight-member collective presidency favors dissolving the Yugoslav federation. He said it was ″attempting to tie the hands of the army.″

Premier Ante Markovic’s federal government, which has strongly opposed military intervention to impose order, challenged Jovic’s contentions.

″Peaceful, tolerant and democratic ways of solving the crisis will avert the danger of clashes and civil war,″ the federal government said in a statement distributed by Tanjug.

The federal government runs the country, while the national presidency carries out presidential duties and commands the military. The government controls day-to-day policy and is formally responsible to the presidency.

The army, with a predominantly ethnic Serbian and pro-Communist officer corps, has supported Milosevic in his efforts to maintain Yugoslavia as a tightly centralized federation.

Serbia and the army tried in three days of meetings this week to force the presidency to declare a state of emergency throughout Yugoslavia. Officials of Serbia said it is needed to restore calm, but Slovenia and Croatia say Serbia’s leaders just want to preserve their positions.

Slovenia and Croatia have indicated they will immediately proclaim independence if a state of emergency is declared.

Slovenia’s president, Milan Kucan, was quoted by Tanjug as saying Jovic’s resignation puts ″additional pressure on the already grave and dramatic situation in the country.″

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