Yugoslav prime minister survives ouster attempt Narrow vote blocks removal of Panic

November 04, 1992|By Dusko Doder | Dusko Doder,Contributing Writer

BELGRADE -- Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic yesterday narrowly survived a parliamentary attempt to oust him from power.

The upper house of the Yugoslav Parliament blocked a no-confidence vote engineered against the Serbia-born U.S. millionaire by Serbian hard-line president Slobodan Milosevic.

The narrow 18-17 vote was just enough to overturn an overwhelming vote Monday night in the lower house, where Mr. Panic was denounced as a stooge of Washington selling out Serbisn interests in his efforts to end the Balkans conflict.

Mr. Panic was saved by deputies from Montenegro, the tiny former Yugoslav republic which together with Serbia makes up the new rump state of Yugoslavia. Serbia, with its population of 10 million, commands an overwhelming majority in the lower chamber. But the upper chamber is split equally, with each republic having 20 representatives.

Today's outcome injects a new note of discord in an already volatile region. Some diplomats see it as a prelude to a possible confrontation between Serbia and Montenegro. "It is certainly evidence of a deep split -- the new Yugoslavia is far from united," said one diplomat.

In his view, Mr. Panic's eventual ouster could prompt the Montenegrins to bolt the federation. Since Montenegro provides Serbia with access to the sea, Mr. Milosevic could well resort to force to keep the tiny republic in, thereby provoking the eruption of a new civil war.

The Montenegrins -- who are ethnic Serbs -- have only been half-heartedly behind Mr. Milosevic's efforts to create a Greater Serbia. Even before U.N. sanctions were imposed against Belgrade in June, Montenegro had taken tentative steps distancing itself from Mr. Milosevic's Serbia.

Mr. Panic's unexpected arrival in July on the Yugoslav political scene provided another option to the tiny republic with less than one million population. Montenegro hitched its wagon to Mr. Panic as well as Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic. They have formed a team jointly trying to end the war in Bosnia.

That put Mr. Panic and Mr. Milosevic on a collision course. They have clashed recently over talks to recognize Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Disagreements have been particularly severe over Kosovo, the southern Serbian region whose population is predominantly Albanian. Mr. Milosevic and his allies have denounced Mr. Panic's effort to defuse tension in Kosovo by negotiating with its Albanian leaders.

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