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OPEC’s Island Setting Was Tito’s Paradise

June 26, 1986

BRIONI, Yugoslavia (AP) _ OPEC ministers are meeting this week on an island paradise where the late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito maintained luxurious villas and filled a zoo with lions, tigers and bears.

Tito, who died six years ago but remains widely admired in Yugoslavia, championed a movement of countries professing nonalignment that now includes most of the 13 oil cartel members.

At an international meeting 30 years ago on this small Adriatic island, Tito and leaders of Egypt and India signed a declaration of intent to steer clear of the West and the Communist bloc. Yugoslavia has maintained an independent foreign policy even though it is run by a Communist government.

The island, a national park dedicated to Tito’s memory, has been opened to tourists to help defray the $1.2 million annual maintenance costs, which have been a drain on the country’s troubled economy.

Naval and paramilitary police are stationed permanently on the island. Soldiers keep straying visitors well away from Tito’s luxurious villas, and police prowl the thickets of oleanders, holly oak and cypress.

Some security forces keep two of Tito’s yachts - the ″Podgorka″ and the ″Jadranka″ - polished and shipshape at their moorings in the main slip. His animals still are cared for in an open-air zoo that contains panthers, leopards, lynxes and exotic tropical birds.

Elsewhere on the island, deer graze amid the ruins of a 2,000-year-old Roman villa, while remnants of a 5th century Byzantine basilica and a 15th century Gothic church are kept in museum-like order.

Tour guide Maja Lazic said about 150,000 people came last year to ths island two miles from Yugoslavia’s mainland. Visitors are allowed only as members of packaged tours.

The cost of a visit varies by nationality and length of stay. Reporters covering the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries conference were charged $20 a day to be ferried to the island.

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