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Slovenes Worry About War’s Odds, But Fear Costs of Turning Back With AM-Yugoslavia, Bjt

July 3, 1991

LJUBLJANA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Locked in a battle they don’t expect to win, Slovenes on Wednesday anxiously watched federal troops for signs of retreat or retaliation.

Secessionists in Slovenia ended their first week of conflict encouraged by some victories, but fearful of the outcome if the fight drags on against the federal army’s superior firepower and troop strength.

″Militarily, we are not able to defend ourselves against such a force,″ said France Bucar, speaker of the Slovenian parliament. ″But morally and politically, they cannot beat us.″

The federal army entered Slovenia June 27, two days after the republic and neighboring Croatia declared independence. Tanks rammed through roadblocks and fighters bombed Slovenian airfields as the federal government apparently tried to control the Serbian-dominated forces.

But hundreds of federal soldiers surrendered with tanks and other equipment. At least 63 people have been killed and 142 wounded, according to the Slovenes.

″We won a battle, but I don’t know if we can win peace,″ said Andrej Modic, a Slovene reserve officer who manned a barricade near Vrhnika, about 20 miles southwest of Ljubljana.

He was listening to Radio Slovenia, which gave frequent updates on the moves of about 180 federal army tanks and other armored vehicles from the federal capital of Belgrade toward Slovenia on Wednesday.

″If they attack, we will fight back. But I don’t know where that would get us. I cannot say I’m not afraid,″ Modic said.

Roads leading to Vrhnika were mined and barricaded by heavy trucks and buses in order to prevent tanks from moving out of barracks. A federal army tank and a barricade bus were still burning from a battle on Tuesday.

Slovenia had offered a four-point plan Tuesday that would end the war but it was rebuffed by the army.

On Wednesday, however, the commander of the federal army in Slovenia, Army Gen. Andrija Raseta, said the army would hold fire unless attacked.

Immediately following that announcement, Slovenian media curbed its anti- army campaign and stopped calling the federal military ″an occupational force.″

But there was still widespread apprehension among Slovenes that fighting will resume.

Barricades of heavy vehicles blocked main intersections and public buildings in Ljubljana as militiamen searched pedestrians and cars, apparently looking for weapons.

″I’m really afraid they are going to bomb us. We don’t trust the army,″ said Pavla Kuplin, a clerk at the Union Hotel in Ljubljana.

″We will fight to the last man,″ Kuplin said. ″Unfortunately, I would even allow my only son, Sandi, to go to the territorial defense. That is just what we have to do at the moment.″

″People here won’t give up easily,″ said Petar Pavkovic, a Serb who has been living in Ljubljana for 27 years. He was hawking Slovenian independence T-shirts, mugs, stickers and badges on Ljubljana’s main Titova street.

He said he was selling about 40 T-shirts a day. They had the inscription: ″Blessed Slovenia.″

On a downtown wall, someone had drawn an equal sign between a Nazi swastika and the Communist red star, a symbol of the Yugoslav People’s Army.

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