Serbian Communist leaders, foiled in an apparent attempt to provoke a military takeover to preserve Serbian domination of Yugoslavia, backed down and refused to accept the resignation of Borisav Jovic as federal president.

After a day of bitter debate, the 250-seat Communist-dominated Serbian Assembly voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to retain Jovic as Serbia's representative in the eight-man collective federal presidency. There were 17 no votes and four abstentions.Jovic, a 63-year-old economist aligned with Marxist Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, resigned Friday in what political analysts saw as an attempt to cripple the federal presidency and provoke army intervention to preserve by force the disintegrating six-republic federation, dominated by Serbia.