Yugoslavs feel slighted that Carter not attending funeral
Vienna — The Soviet Union and China will be represented at the funeral today of President Tito by their chiefs of state. So will all of Russia's allies in Eastern Europe.
But not the United States. And although they are not saying so publically, it is an obvious disappointment to the Yugoslavs.
President Tito's funeral is drawing one of the biggest gatherings of world leaders in recent history, including 19 presidents, 12 prime ministers, and three monarchs.
From Western Europe's NATO members and neutral countries there will be three crowned heads, several princes, and political leaders such as West Germany's Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The US delegation is headed by Vice-President Walter Mondale. Among those with him is President Carter's mother.
Yugoslavia's new collective leadership has privately expressed dismay at President Carter's absence from the funeral.
The President's current workload of domestic and international problems is acknowledged. "But he is no more pre-occupied with world affairs than, say, Mr. Brezhnev and some of the others," an official observed privately.
It is clear that many Western diplomats and observers feel the Americans are making a mistake by sending a lower-level delegation when a host of world leaders are attending this nation's farewell to its prestigious leader.
It may or may not be true -- as many here have suggested -- that Washington was caught napping first by Moscow's hints that Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and another member of the Politburo would stand in for Mr. Brezhnev and the late upstaging announcement that the Soviet leader himself would come.
The Yugoslavia had known earlier of the likelihood that Mr. Mondale would represent the US when the time came. But they had hoped for a change of mind.
When it is all over, President Carter's absence will pass from mind. But right now it is seen as a failure to make a gesture that would have meant much to Yugoslavs, however warm Mr. Mondale's words about President Tito.
There obviously is little opportunity for meaningful contact. The Soviet leader himself was among the last to arrive late Wednesday and, like many others , is believed to be scheduled to return home right after today's ceremony.
But Mr. Brezhnev will be here long enough to deliver in person to President Tito's successors the assurances of good will contained in the Kremlin's official tribute to the Yugoslav leader earlier in the week. The Yugoslavs would have welcomed Mr. Carter's presence as a symbol of US commitment.
Everyone visiting here at this time has been greatly impressed not only by the scale and depth of national grief, but also by the simple dignity with which it has been expressed and the restrained good taste of the ceremonies associated with the occasion. It was impressive to watch the quiet, patient, miles-long crowds lining the sidewalks along every main road into the city center, to see them file slowly through the hall of the parliament building where President Tito laid in state.
This moving public tribute went on around the clock through three nights, beginning at 8 p.m. Monday and continuing until a few hours before the funeral was to begin.
A notable feature, was the turnout of young people. Some were in school groups, but many were in small parties of their own. Teen-agers in windbreakers , jeans, and sneakers were as subdued and often as tearful as their fathers and mothers and the veterans who had fought with President Tito in the war.