Yugoslav President Calls for Talks
YUGOSLAV President Janez Drnovsek appealed to parliament yesterday to end nationalist rivalries as violence in Kosovo continues to tear Yugoslavia apart. But it is highly unlikely that the president's call for a dialogue will lead to a quick way out of the crisis. Mr. Drnovsek's attempt to move this multiethnic nation out of its present impasse came in a speech at an emergency session of the Yugoslav parliament dealing with the southern province of Kosovo. At least 29 people have died and hundreds have been wounded there during 11 days of protests by ethnic Albanians demanding greater self-rule.
Drnovsek called for a dialogue without conditions while sharply attacking the growing nationalism in the country.
``Nationality has been placed above everything else and has become more important than democracy, economic success, and individual human rights,'' he said.
The speech was given in the name of the collective eight-man state presidency, representing each of the country's six republics and two semiautonomous provinces.
Drnovsek said that the hostilities among the Yugoslav federation's republics exceeded normal relations even between different countries, let alone between republics of the same nation.
``This negative trend must be stopped because it has reached an extremely dangerous point,'' he said. ``Nationalist emotions are being released. The nationality is more important than anything else, even more than democracy.''
Without mentioning anyone by name or any of the republics directly, Drnovsek demanded that all sides sit down for talks with without insults or recriminations.
He also warned that continued unrest could lead to further military intervention, because the state presidency was determined to protect the Constitution by all means and to secure further democratic changes in peace.
The unrest in Kosovo, a semi-autonomous province ruled by the republic of Serbia but whose population of 1.7 million is 90 percent ethnic Albanian, has shaken this nation to its foundations. The Albanians are predominantly Muslim, while the Serbians are mainly Orthodox Christian.
The previously constitutionally guaranteed independence of Kosovo within the Yugoslav federation has been usurped in the last year and replaced by harsh Serbian rule, although the Serbs constitute less than 10 percent of the population of Kosovo.
The Serbs regard Kosovo as the cradle of the Serbian nation.
The crisis has split the nation, with the northern republics of Slovenia and Croatia urging a peaceful solution, while Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic has given no indication of any readiness to compromise. Mr. Milosevic, who has also criticized the state presidency for being late in taking action in the Kosovo crisis, was not even present when Drnovsek spoke in parliament Wednesday evening.
The message from Milosevic continues to be the one he sent out earlier in the week in a speech to Serbian leaders: ``The Albanian separatists will not gain or win one inch of the land of Serbia. Serbia has had enough of treason and humiliation and will not compromise on Kosovo.''
Such talk does not promise political progress in a situation that officials in Kosovo describe as extremely difficult, tense and dramatic.
The parliamentary debate lasted all day Thursday. Many of the Serbian delegates sharply criticized Drnovsek, while delegates from other republics attacked Serbia and talked about tolerance and the necessity to find a peaceful solution.
The debate underlined a recent trend of increasing isolation of Serbia and strongman Milosevec from the rest of Yugoslavia.
Following a dispute with the hard-line Serbian leadership, reform-minded Slovenian delegates walked out of the federal party congress last month, and Sunday formed their own independent leftist party. The subsequent disarray of the ruling Communist Party does not lend itself to quick and forceful action.
Earlier calls for calm by the Yugoslav president had no effect. And it could very well be that the latest appeal will be for naught.