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Yugoslav Crisis Eases as Serb Returns to Presidency

BORISAV JOVIC, a member of the Yugoslav presidency, withdrew his resignation Wednesday, easing the country's worst political crisis since World War II. His announcement restored decisionmaking power to the ruling collective presidency and cleared the way for talks among the country's top leaders.

Mr. Jovic triggered a constitutional crisis last Friday by saying he would resign after failing to persuade the eight-member presidency to accept Army plans to impose emergency measures following months of ethnic tension.

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But Jovic, a Serb, accepted a vote by the Serbian parliament rejecting his resignation. Under the Constitution, a member of the presidency can quit only if the republic or province that elected him accepts his resignation.

After Jovic's Friday resignation, three other members of the presidency quit or were removed, stripping the body of a quorum and decisionmaking powers. The presidency is Yugoslavia's highest constitutional body and the commander in chief of the Army.

Loans for Eastern Europe

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects to loan Eastern European nations as much as $5 billion this year and will probably provide the region with substantial sums of money for years to come, IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus said Wednesday in New York.

Earlier Wednesday, President Bush said he would write off 70 percent of Warsaw's debt to Washington and announced two new initiatives to promote United States investment in East Europe.

Mr. Camdessus told the Council of Foreign Relations that he expects the IMF's loans this year to act as a catalyst for more than $15 billion in assistance for the region from other sources.

Last Friday the Paris Club of creditors agreed to write off almost half the $33 billion owed to them by Poland, rewarding Warsaw for pushing through painful economic reforms.

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Romanians protest price hikes

Thousands of Romanian workers hurled bones and stones at parliament and the presidential palace Wednesday to protest plans for drastic price hikes.

But two key economics ministers said the reforms did not go far enough and resigned.

Alfa, a trade union bloc, demanded that Prime Minister Petre Roman cancel the liberalization of prices of staple foods and essential services, including rents and electricity, planned for April 1, and freeze his entire market-economy reform program.

But Trade and Industry Minister Anton Vatasescu and Finance Minister Theodor Stolojan resigned, saying the reform was too weak after President Ion Iliescu urged Mr. Roman to soften it with cash handouts. The revised plan also set upper limits to prevent food prices more than doubling and avoid social turmoil.

The price thaw is the second stage of price reforms drawn up with the IMF in exchange for up to $1 billion in financial support.

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