Havel quits as Slovakia fulfils 1,000-year dream

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The Independent Online
PRAGUE (AP) - Vaclav Havel announced yesterday he was resigning as President of Czechoslovakia, in recognition that the Czechoslovak federation was at an end. He said he had decided to resign as he did not wish to stop 'the historic evolution' of his disintegrating country.

Mr Havel's announcement came minutes after parliament in the smaller, eastern Slovak republic declared sovereignty, signifying the end of the Czechoslovak federation. In a televised speech last night, he explained that he did not want to 'block the major changes in our state and the efforts of emancipation by Slovakia'.

The break-up of Czechoslovakia is expected to be peaceful. Mr Havel, who had tried to hold the federation together, sent a letter to the federal parliament saying he would resign on Monday.

Mr Havel, a dissident playwright who led the 1989 'Velvet Revolution' that ended Communist rule, was blocked by deputies from Slovakia earlier this month when he sought parliamentary re-election as president. Mr Havel suffered imprisonment under Communism and sought to remake the country after the revolution along the lines of his humanistic philosophy.

He was elected President in December 1989 and again the next year. He made preservation of a united state his main goal, but was unable to overcome rising nationalism to achieve it.

The proclamation of sovereignty by Slovakia's parliament marked the fulfilment of a millennium of dreams. 'We, the democratically elected Slovak National Council, solemnly declare that 1,000 years' effort of the Slovak nation for sovereignty has come to fruition,' said the declaration. It has little legal significance, but is expected to be followed by the adoption of a Slovak constitution and a referendum on future relations with the more prosperous and numerous Czechs.

The declaration was approved by 113 votes to 24 in the 150-seat parliament. 'The Slovak National Council declares the sovereignty of the Slovak republic as a basis for the sovereign state of the Slovak nation,' the statement concluded. The Prime Minister, Vladimir Meciar, appeared before hundreds of supporters who chanted: 'Long Live Slovakia]'