Copyright 1987 Reuters Ltd Reuters 

                                 April 25, 1987, Saturday, AM cycle 

SECTION: International News 

LENGTH: 566 words 




Thousands of Serbs demanding better treatment in Yugoslavia's Kosovo region staged an all-night vigil after the area's worst reported clashes since nationalist riots in 1981.

The incidents in the town of Kosovo Polje rekindled ethnic tensions in the region between majority Albanians and other nationalities who say they are being forced to leave.

They also dealt a further blow to Yugoslavia's Communist authorities, already facing a major economic crisis and labor unrest.

A crowd of about 15,000 Serbs and Montenegrins hurled stones at police after they used truncheons yesterday to push people away from the entrance to the town's cultural center.

The disturbance took place as Slobodan Milosevic, Communist Party chief in the republic of Serbia, was meeting a delegation of local Serbs and Montenegrins in the center to discuss their grievences.

The newspaper Vecernje Novosti said many people, including women, were injured when police advanced on the crowd only to be pushed back by demonstrators demanding to see Milosevic. Local reporters earlier told Reuters that police took away at least 20 demonstrators.

The official Tanjug news agency today quoted Milosevic as saying that those ordering the use of truncheons against citizens would be disciplined.

The violence was the worst reported since the army was dispatched to Kosovo in 1981 to quell Albanian nationalist riots in which at least nine people were killed.

Kosovo, which borders Albania, has a population of 1.7 million ethnic Albanians and 200,000 Serbs and Montenegrins. Thousands of non-Albanians flee the area every year amid charges of harassment and claims that the Albanians want to create an ethnically pure Kosovo.

Hundreds of Serbs came to Belgrade last year to complain to senior state and party officials of alleged brutality, including rape and murder, by the Albanian majority. Some threatened to take up arms unless they were provided with better protection.

Television yesterday called Kosovo "Yugoslavia's number one problem" amid the current economic crisis.

Tanjug later ran a full report of Milosevic's speech, which included an emotional appeal to the Serb and Montenegrin delegation to end emigration from the area bordering Albania.

"The migration of Serbs and Montenegrins under economic, political and physical pressure is probably the last tragic exodus of a European people," he said. The last such processions of desperate people were in the Middle Ages."

He told the Kosovo Serbs: "This is your land. These are your houses, fields, gardens and memories. You can't leave your land because its hard to live here, because you're pressured by injustice and degredation."

He added: "Our goal is to overcome hatred, intolerance and distrust. We want all people in Kosovo to live together. The first step towards that is you have to stay here."

Yugoslavia, grappling with 100 per cent inflation and falling exports, was hit last month by a wave of strikes by workers denouncing a law rolling back wages to average levels of the last quarter of 1986.

New strikes were reported this month at the country's biggest steel complex, Smederevo, and at a rolling stock plant in Kraljevo in Serbia.

Coal miners in Istria in northwest Yugoslavia have entered the third week of Yugoslavia's longest-recorded strike, demanding 100 per cent wage increases and better living conditions.

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