Federal Army Gives Ultimatum to Slovenia
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ The Yugoslav army issued an ultimatum to the breakaway republic of Slovenia on Saturday to stop fighting federal troops or face ″decisive military action.″
Accusing Slovenia of breaking a day-old cease-fire, a senior army general said on national television that the country was tense, dangerous and close to disintegration. It was not clear whether he was also speaking for the federal government.
As Gen. Marko Negovanovic spoke, sporadic clashes continued in Slovenia. Neighboring Croatia also declared independence on Tuesday, but Slovenia’s seizure of its border posts made it the focus of the army’s wrath.
In the tense Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, militiamen in gray uniforms and armed civilians searched cars. Buses and heavy trucks, some booby-trapped with bombs, blockaded streets.
Radio Ljubljana reported fighting between Slovenians and ″terrorist groups″ in the capital, and warned citizens to stay off the streets and away from windows. Scattered small-arms fire was heard near the Parliament building and elsewhere, witnesses and the Slovenian news agency reported.
A hotel clerk said, however, the city appeared calm in the late evening.
The army’s statement appeared to further undermine the fragile peace accord European Community ministers mediated late Friday. Under the pact, Slovenia and Croatia agreed to suspend temporarily their independence drive in exchange for concessions by federal officials.
On Saturday, however, Slovenia reiterated its determination to secede eventually. A meeting of the nation’s paralyzed collective presidency was postponed indefinitely.
Croatian television also reported that the federal military had started calling up reservists in the republic. Croatia’s defense ministry told citizens to defy the order.
The State Department said Saturday that U.S. dependents at its consulate in Zabreb, Croatia’s capital, were being allowed to leave Yugoslavia. The only other U.S. diplomatic post in Yugoslavia is in Belgrade.
The State Department made the announcement a day after urging Americans in Slovenia and Croatia to leave as soon as they could and suggesting that Americans defer non-essential travel to Yugoslavia until the tensions subside.
″We are at the beginning of civil war,″ Negovanovic, a member of the general staff, said in a special broadcast on Belgrade television.
Ljubljana television reported that the military set a 9 a.m. (3 a.m. EDT) Sunday deadline for Slovenia to stop hostilities. The report could not immediately be confirmed.
Slovenia’s parliament met in an emergency session that continued early Sunday, presumably to consider the ultimatum.
In what he called the ″last demand″ to Slovenia, Negovanovic said the army would take ″decisive military action″ against the republic unless it stopped violating the cease-fire accord.
Negovanovic also asserted that the republic of Croatia was mobilizing its own military.
The military has previously demanded that Slovenia relinquish control of border posts it seized in the wake of its declaration, and restore power and water to federal military bases in the republic.
It was unclear whether Negovanovic’s ultimatum to Slovenia was authorized by the weak federal administration of Premier Ante Markovic. However, it was issued by the ″staff of the supreme command,″ indicating the army was acting on its own.
Negovanovic is an assistant to Gen. Blagohe Adzic, an army chief of staff and a hard-line Communist from Serbia, the republic that vehemently opposes Croatian and Slovenian independence.
The crisis arose last week after months of ethnic and political feuding among leaders of the nation’s six republics over the Balkan nation’s future government.
Slovenia and Croatia tried to persuade the federal government, based in Belgrade, to let the nation evolve into a loose confederation. The hard-line leadership of Serbia, the largest republic, led efforts to block them.
After Croatia and Slovenia declared independence and Slovenia took over its borders with Hungary, Austria and Italy, the army moved tanks through both republics, and attacked Slovenia.
Despite pleas from embattled Slovene leaders, no foreign government offered aid during the military crackdown or recognized the independence declarations.
By the time the federal government declared a cease-fire on Friday, its air force had bombed Slovenia’s main airport and several border crossings. Dozens of soldiers and civilians were killed, though figures varied.
Under the accord brokered by ministers from Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia agreed to discuss reviving the federal presidency made up of representatives of the six republics and two provinces.
But a meeting of the presidency - which controls the army - scheduled for Saturday night was postponed indefinitely, the official Tanjug news agency reported.
In response to the accord, the EC dropped a move to suspend nearly $1 billion in aid to Yugoslavia.
The peace accord also called for Slovenia and Croatia to suspend temporarily their plans to carry out their independence declarations, and for the federal army to withdraw.
Slovenian President Milan Kucan said Saturday that independence for his republic was inevitable. But he said he had tentatively agreed to hold off steps toward independence for 90 days.
Both sides accused each other of violating the cease-fire.
A battle broke out in the Slovenian town of Skofije near the Adriatic Coast. Three people were killed and several wounded, Slovenian radio said.
An Italian state radio reporter near the Italian-Slovenian border point of Rabuiese quoted travelers as saying that three armed civilians attacked federal soldiers who went to a store.
Numerous tank movements were reported, possibly indicating a withdrawal of federal forces as required by the peace accord.
In Ljubljana, most stores were open. Nervous residents hoarded supplies, and shortages were reported.
In Croatia, eight people were killed overnight in ethnic fighting between Croats and Serbs, Tanjug and other reports said. Ethnic clashes in the republic have killed 37 people since May.
Casualty reports since the fighting broke out Thursday varied. The Slovenes said at least 40 people were killed and 85 wounded in dozens of firefights that caused widespread damage. The Yugoslav army put its casualties at 10 dead, spokesman Col. Milan Gvera said Friday.