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Yugoslavia's president Borisav Jovic said Tuesday the troubled Balkan country may soon hold a national referendum to decide if the nation's six republics should split into separate nations.

"The right of self-determination, including the right of secession, is a natural political right of each nationality, which no one can question," Jovic said in a speech to a war veteran's congress."This also means that each of our peoples can decide to remain in the Yugoslav community or leave it," said Jovic, the head of Yugoslavia's eight-member state presidency.

Yugoslavia's Communist Party continues to run the country on the federal level, but its authority has been crippled since center-rignt parties won free elections in the republics of Slovenia and Croatia earlier this year.

Open clashes among the republics' leaderships and rising nationalism in the nation's six republics, two provinces and numerous ethnic groups have led to fears of a civil war.

Jovic said the outcome of a nationwide referendum on secession must be democratic and peaceful since the different nationalities "will continue to live on these territories, and even if they do not remain in the same house, they must remain friends."

He added "I deeply believe that Yugoslavia will continue to exist because we have no better solution."

His speech was broadcast live by Belgrade radio.

Newly-elected non-communist leaderships in Slovenia and Croatia have demanded that Yugoslavia transform itself into a loose confederation of semi-independent states, which would cooperate only if common interests were involved.

They have indicated that if their demands are not met by the new Yugoslav constitution, which is currently being drafted, they would secede.

Communist leaders in the largest republic, Serbia, have opposed holding free elections and advocate a federal system with strong central authority.


(Additional information)

Burma party has virtually collapsed

The Burmese Communist Party, riven by dissension, has virtually collapsed after nearly 40 years of futile military struggle, said a senior party leader who surrendered recently.

"The BCP now has only nine central committee members (out of more than 30) and its fighting force is negligible," said former central committee member Sai Aung Win. He said the party's fortunes began to wane in 1968 when its founder and leader was assassinated in a jungle hideout north of Rangoon.