BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Feuding ethnic leaders of Yugoslavia's six republics remained deadlocked Friday after eight hours of talks on the future of the federation and agreed to meet again March 12.
President Franjo Tudjman of the pro-secession Croatian republic refused to fly to Belgrade to attend the sixth session convened this year, accusing the communist-ruled Serbian Republic of threatening him with the arrest on high treason charges.
'Talks are to be resumed because nobody wants to take responsibility for the collapse,' Slovenian President Milan Kucan told reporters after the talks.
Croatia and Slovenia, the two wealthiest republics which replaced communist governments in May in Yugoslavia's first multi-party parliamentary elections in 45 years, both advocate that the federation of 23 million should be transformed into a confederation of independent states.
Serbia, the largest republic, and the Yugoslav military, dominated by Serbian generals, want to safeguard the federation based on Marxism.
The tiny republic of Montenegro has sided with Serbia, while the republics of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia want to keep their sovereignty but stay within Yugoslavia.
In the past five years, Yugoslav leaders have been involved in a power struggle, and with ethnic strife and a grave economic crisis, the situation has reached its lowest level in the post-war period, pushing the country to the brink of a civil war.
Tudjman stayed in the Croatian capital of Zagreb, 250 miles west of Belgrade, and in his letter to Yugoslav President Borisav Jovic said he could not take part in the session under pressure and threats of arrest.
Jovic, who represents Serbia in the eight-man state collective presidency, has obtained an opinion by the Yugoslav Public Prosecutor on a message Tudjman sent to President Bush on Jan. 24.
The Public Prosecutor elaborated the message alleging Tudjman had asked Bush to use U.S. troops to protect Croatia from the Yugoslav army.
In his letter to Jovic, Tudjman said he asked Bush 'to influence with diplomatic means a peaceful solution to the Yugoslav crisis.'
The prosecutor alleged Tudjman's message to Bush gave ground for possible filing of criminal charges of high treason because of inviting a foreign power to damage Yugoslavia's sovereignty.
Tudjman asked the prosecutor to revoke his opinion and Jovic and the state presidency to disassociate themselves from it.
On Jan. 9, the Yugoslav state presidency ordered the Yugoslav army to move against 'illegal paramilitary units' in Croatia. The military was ready for a crackdown on Jan. 25, claiming the Croatian ruling nationalist party illegally imported automatic rifles from Hungary. The military alleges Croatian Defense Minister Martin Spegelj had masterminded an armed revolt against the Yugoslav army and Serbs who live in Croatia.
Tudjman said the army's decision to file charges against Spegelj for his alleged masterminding of an insurrection was only the beginning of a campaign to topple the Croatian government through a series of framed trials.