BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- The Yugoslav government, proclaiming independence decrees by the republics of Croatia and Slovenia void, Wednesday said it will ensure the normal workings of the ethnically divided nation brought to the brink of civil war.
After more than four hours of talks, the government of Prime Minister Ante Markovic said the Slovenian and Croatian decisions taken Tuesday were 'unilateral acts taken without the agreement with other constituent members (republics) of Yugoslavia, and therefore are illegal and illegitimate, and all consequences of these acts are void.'
Slovenia and Croatia declared independence despite warnings from Western countries and the federal government.
In a symbolic act, the government empowered federal troops and police to replace local officers and take over control of Slovenia's frontiers. Under the independence declaration passed Tuesday, Slovenia was to post its own troops and police to man international borders.
To save Yugoslavia's territorial integrity, the government said it 'has taken indispensable decisions and orders which should ensure normal functioning of the Yugoslav state, ensure its existing (external) state and internal frontiers and fulfill its international obligations.'
Political observers said the federal government planned to direct the military and police to enforce Yugoslavia's internal borders, but no confirmation to this claim could be obtained.
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman told Zagreb Radio Tuesday night the 'federal government has no authorization to use the armed forces, and I do not believe in such a move.'
A government announcement published after 2 a.m. Wednesday by the national news agency Tanjug did not elaborate on these decisions and orders.
The government, which went into an emergency session at about 10 p.m. Tuesday, asked the feuding leaders of the six republics to 'continue without delay their talks on solving the constitutional crisis and the future order of Yugoslavia with consent from all of them.'
It urged the republics of Serbia and Montenegro to lift the blockade on the election of the Yugoslav eight-member state presidency that has left the country without its formal head of state since May 15. Stjepan Mesic of Croatia was to be named president for a one-year term in Yugoslavia's leadership rotation system but Serbia and Montenegro refused to agree, accusing Mesic wants to dissolve the federation.
The federal government 'calls and obligates all the citizens of Yugoslavia to peace, to avoid violence and to respect the Constitution and laws of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.'
Tuesday in Zagreb, the Croatian Assembly passed a package of four decrees that invalidated the federal constitution in the republic. The legislature's chairman, Zarko Domljan, said Croatia is now 'a sovereign and independent state.'
In Ljubljana, the Slovenian Assembly passed virtually identical independence decrees that also would strip the Communist red star from the republic's flag and its coat of arms.
In Zagreb, Domljan said Croatia and Slovenia should 'form the alliance of two independent, sovereign states' and with all the other Yugoslav states which respect each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. The two republics also said they would seek international recognition.
Leaders of both republics emphasized that their declarations of independence did not amount to secession but the beginning of a dissolution of the tight Yugoslav federation into a looser alliance.
Slovenian Assembly Chairman France Bucar told the legislature, 'We are not against co-existence with peoples who live in this area. Cooperation is in our own interest. Our new Slovenian state is not an end to our efforts, but only the beginning of a new life in co-existence with other peoples.'
And Tudjman acknowledged that the process of dissolution will take quite some time, 'for some things it may take days, for some things months and for some things years to separate Croatia from the federation.'NEWLN: 1stadd stands
At the same time, the Slovenian Assembly in the republican capital of Ljubljana, 350 miles west of Belgrade, went into session Tuesday evening to pass independence decrees stripping the red star from its national flag and the coat of arms, officials said.
And in Belgrade, the federal government of Prime Minister Ante Markovic convened an emergency session later in the evening after the Federal Chamber of the Yugoslav Parliament decided that that all the federal bodies, including the military and police 'are obliged to undertake measures to prevent the re-cutting of Yugoslavia and changing its borders.'
The Federal Chamber urged the Slovenian Assembly to begin discussing the future order of Yugoslavia and condemned a unilateral secession.
Both Slovenia and Croatia announced they would withdraw their deputies from the Federal Chamber but would keep deputies in the Chamber of Republics and Provinces of the Yugoslav parliament.NEWLN: more
Slovenia and Croatia announced they would now ask for international recognition.
In Zagreb, Domljan said Croatia and Slovenia should 'form the alliance of two independent, sovereign states' and with all the other Yugoslav states which respect each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Croatian and Slovenian officials said their independent republics have now opened the process of dissolution from the federation and could immediately begin talks with the other Yugoslav republics.
Addressing the assembly, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said, 'With this act the Republic of Croatia begins the process of dissolution from the other republics and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. At the same time we begin a campaign for international recogntion of the republic of Croatia.'
Tudjman criticized the federation and Serbia, saying they 'heavily, deliberately and permanently violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the republic of Croatia or support activities against its interests.'
He said the 'ruthless' blockade of the work of the Yugoslav eight- member state presidency and the election of Croatia's Stjepan Mesic as the federal head of state for a one-year tenure was such an example.
Serbia blocked the election of Mesic on May 15 arguing he would work on dissolution of the federation, and for the past 41 days Yugoslavia has been without its formal head of state.NEWLN: more