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THE WEEK AHEAD

BELGRADE : Croatia's Turn At The Top

May 14, 1991

Wednesday's rotation of the federal presidency from Serbia to Croatia should be a routine event under the complex power-sharing system bequeathed by late Communist leader Josip Broz Tito. But little of Yugoslav politics is routine these days.

Incoming President Stipe Mesic, a Croat, may act more as liquidator of the six-republic federation than as its protector. Croatia's nationalist leadership is committed to secession from Yugoslavia, and a republic-wide referendum Sunday is expected to win at least 70% endorsement for Croatian independence.

Both the transfer of power and the referendum could trigger further unrest, as Serbs make up 11% of Croatia's 5 million people and some would probably fight to keep their ties with Serbia.

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