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Slovenia cuts power to military bases after arrests of officers

By
MUSA SEVER

LJUBLJANA, Yugoslavia -- The independence-minded Slovenian government Friday cut electricity and communications to an undisclosed number of Yugoslav army bases in retaliation for the arrests of a local commander and three military reservists, a senior official said.

'These are counter-measures for the arrests,' said Zoran Klemencic, the chief aide to Slovenian Defense Secretary Janez Jansa. He said the services would be restored once the army released the four detainees.

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He declined to say how many bases were deprived of electricity, telephone and telex services but said army medical facilities 'have been excluded.'

The Tanjug news agency quoted Jansa as saying Slovenian President Milan Kucan spoke by telephone with Gen. Col. Konrad Kolsek, the commander of the Fifth Military Region, which includes Slovenia and Croatia, who reportedly told him the four would be freed after questioning.

There was no immediate comment from the Communist-led Yugoslav army, which is at odds with the nationalist Slovenian regime over its moves to secede from the federation, including its assumption of peacetime command of the Slovenian Territorial Defense, the republic's 8,000-man military reserve force.

The decision to cut the power and telephone connections to military bases was taken at an emergency session of the Slovenian leadership called by Kucan to discuss the arrests of the commander and three members of the Slovenian Territorial Defense unit of Maribor, 85 miles northeast of Ljubljana.

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A Slovenian Interior and Defense ministries statement said the four were taken into custody at about 1:45 a.m. during talks in the Maribor municipal building between the army and Slovenian officials on resolving a siege of a Slovenian Territorial Defense training center in nearby Pekra by troops and tanks. The military withdrew from the center shortly after the arrests.

During the talks, Gen. Mica Delic of the 31st Corps 'asked for a glass of water. One of the Slovenian representatives left the room to fetch it. The next moment, three soldiers with arms ... broke into the room and screamed that nobody should move,' the statement said.

Two of the soldiers 'grabbed' Lt. Col. Vladimir Milosevic, the commander of Maribor area Slovenian Territorial Defense unit, and 'dragged him from the room,' the statement said. Meanwhile, 17 other soldiers surrounded the municipal hall and arrested three members of Milosevic's unit.

The army delegation left the talks and returned to the local military base with the four detainees, who were transported in an ambulance to hide them from several hundred protesters gathered in the street, the statement said.

Thursday afternoon, about 120 troops backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers surrounded the Pekra training center hours after Slovenian reserve personnel stationed there briefly detained two soldiers found near the facility.

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Armed members of the Slovenian Territorial Defense deployed in defensive positions around the base.

The Slovenian statement said that during the Maribor talks, the four- member military delegation charged the 'army's honor had been stained,' but agreed shortly before Milosevic's arrest to a proposal to form a joint commission with Slovenian officials to investigate Thursday's events.

Icy relations have exited between the Yugoslav military and the Slovenian government since last summer, when the Slovenian assembly adopted legislation transferring peacetime command of the Slovenian Territorial Defense from the army to the republic.

The regime, which ended Marxist rule of Slovenia in April 1990 elections, also curtailed its contributions to the federal military budget and the army draft in its moves to secede from the Yugoslav federation because of perceived oppression by communist-ruled Serbia. Serbia is the largest of the six republics and majority Serbs dominate the military.

Croatia also favors dissolution of the federation, which Serbia is seeking to preserve with its 8.5 million-strong Christian Orthodox Serbian majority. Slovenia, a predominantly Roman Catholic republic of 1.9 million people, has vowed to declare independence June 26 with or without an agreement.

Negotiations between the republics on the dispute have been deadlocked for months, raising ethnic tensions to serious levels and virtually paralyzing the country's economic and political life. Many Yugoslavs fear civil war.

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