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Troops Deployed; Miners Leave Mine Strike After Party Leaders Resign

February 27, 1989 GMT

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Troops and tanks moved into Kosovo province Monday, while ethnic Albanian miners ended their eight-day sit-in deep in a mineshaft after three provincial Communist party leaders resigned as the strikers demanded.

However, the miners said they would not work until their other demands were met, including the abandonment of planned constitutional changes that would give Serbia more control over the province.

At another mine, workers from the province’s Slavic minority began a strike in support of the party officials.

The official Tanjug news agency said the government put emergency measures into effect immediately in Kosovo, an autonomous province of the Serbian republic, but did not describe them.

Air force jets flew over the provincial capital Pristina several times in a show of might by the federal government, which is trying to end a wave of protests by ethnic Albanians in Kosovo that began with the miners’ strike.

Tanks were parked in front of the army barracks. Military vehicles loaded with soldiers headed toward Titova Mitrovica, where the miners were occupying the Trepca lead and zinc mine.

The miners began leaving the mine after the resignations of the three officials, who are ethnic Albanians but are seen as supporters of the Serbian Communist party.

The state Tanjug news agency said that ″the first of the 1,300 ethnic Albanian miners were taken out of the mine shaft on stretchers″ at about 21:30 local time (3 p.m. EST) and that the others followed.

Belgrade television showed a film clip with weakened miners coming out of the pit leaning on each other and supported by medical staff who shielded their eyes from the TV light.

Kosovo is adjacent to Albania and its population of 1.8 million is 90 percent ethnic Albanian. Minority Slavs often complain of discrimination in the province and martial law was imposed briefly in 1981 after bloody riots between ethnic Albanians and security forces.

Rahman Morina, the provincial party chief, resigned Monday and Belgrade radio quoted him as saying, in a comment directed at the Trepca miners: ″I am deeply shaken that you consider me responsible for your lives and health. It is only for this reason that I am submitting the resignation.″

Husamedin Azemi, party chief of Pristina, cited ″moral considerations and ... blackmail″ for resigning. Serb and Montenegrin members of the Pristina party leadership threatened to quit if Azemi left his post.

Ali Sukrija, Kosovo’s member in the country’s policy-setting Central Committee, also stepped down.

At another lead and zinc mine, 800 members of Kosovo’s Slavic minority occupied their pits and said they would continue the strike if the three leaders resigned.

Tanjug said thousands of Slavs staged protest meetings in different regions of Kosovo Monday to protest the resignations.

Some 100,000 Slovenians and ethnic Albanians in Slovenia, the most developed and liberal Yugoslav republic, signed a petition protesting the introduction of emergency measures in Kosovo, Tanjug said.

About 300 ethnic Albanians marched in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana in support of the Trepca miners, Belgrade radio reported.

On Saturday, the nine-member federal presidency ordered tighter internal security in Kosovo. More soldiers and police than usual were on Pristina’s streets Monday, many guarding official buildings and army installations.

The national Communist Party leadership appealed to the Trepca miners to end the strike and cooperate in ″urgent, open, democratic consideration″ of their demands.

Many stores, schools and universities in the province closed in sympathy strikes, but several ethnic Albanian merchants were seen opening their stores Monday afternoon.

In Slovenia, the legislature called for an immediate session of the national parliament to consider the Kosovo situation.

Slovenia and Croatia oppose attempts by Slobodan Milosevic, the ambitious leader of Serbia’s League of Communists, or Communist party, to gain more control over Kosovo and Vojvodina, another autonomous province in the republic.