The Chinese Communist Party's general secretary has blamed the late chairman Mao Tse-tung by name for "major errors" that brought "great misfortunate on the party and people" in the last years of his life.

In making what appears to be the most direct high-level attack so far on Mao, General Secretary Hu Yaobang told three Yugoslav journalists that the Communist Party planned to publish by the end of the year of a "final assessment of the Cultural Revolution and Mao Tse-tung's role," according to a Tanjug news agency account of the interview.

How to treat Mao's memory has been a difficult problem for Communist leaders like Hu, who were purged by Mao during the Cultural Revolution but who know how closely the Chinese people identify Mao with the Communist Party.He indicated the final verdict would praise Mao as a great leader who by misjudgement and bad health faltered in his last years.

"Chairman Mao made a great contribution to the Chinese revolution, but at the same time he also made mistakes," Hu said according to the Yugoslav account published June 21.

Hu also said that 100 million people, more than 10 per cent of China's population, had suffered because of the purges of the Cultural Revolution and now had had their cases reversed. Hu, a protege of Vice Chairman Deng Xiaoping and a possible chairman of the party himself some day, said he was forced to work in a stable and "clean the cattle" for more than two years.

Hu said Mao's mistakes, committed toward the end of his life when he "lacked energy," had "caused a disaster for the Chinese people . . . Chairman Mao and numerous leaders are directly responsible for the fact that the Cultural Revolution developed in such an incorrect manner."

Ascribing guilt in Mao will help the post-Mao government make its case against the Gang of Four, the group of Mao devotees on his politburo, including his wife Jiang Qing, who were arrested a month after his death Sept. 9, 1976.

Hu said the Chinese supreme court would try the Gang of Four in a closed session by September at the latest and followers of the late defense minister Lin Biao would also have a trial.

During the interview, Hu also gave the Yugoslav journalists a rare tour of the party leadership compound at Zhongnanhai in central Peking.