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The federal army declared a cease-fire Friday in Slovenia, saying it had succeeded in securing all 27 border posts in the breakaway republic, the nation's official news agency reported.

However, the Defense Ministry said later in a statement to the official news agency Tanjug that the army would return fire "if forced to do so."Hours earlier, the federal air force attacked the airport in Slovenia with missiles, and Slovenian militia forces battled federal soldiers at border posts. Scores of people were reported killed in the two days of combat.

In an attempt to stop the fighting, European Community leaders on Friday froze aid to Yugoslavia and sent a mission to try to arrange peace talks between the government and Slovenia and Croatia, both of which declared independence on Tuesday.

A British official said the EC delegation would seek a three-month truce, during which Slovenia and Croatia would suspend their declarations and all troops would return to their barracks.

The Defense Ministry said its military units stopped fighting about 4:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. MDT).

The military assault to take the border posts began Wednesday with ground attacks on Slovenia's crossings with Italy, Hungary and Austria. It escalated Friday with the air attacks.

Slovenian officials had seized some crossings after the republic declared independence. Slovenia and Croatia acted after Belgrade rejected their proposal for a loose confederation of states, rather than one controlled by the federal government.But the federal government said it would crush the independence movements and preserve the federation, long torn by ethnic hatreds. Its strategy was to isolate Slovenia by recapturing border points and taking over key installations such as airports.

The federal army is much larger and better equipped than the Slovenian militia, but the Defense Ministry said its forces were subjected to intensive artillery and anti-aircraft fire during the two days of fighting.

At Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital, several air-to-ground missiles, fired by two twin-engine Orao fighter-bombers, exploded on the airport's tarmac in huge fireballs. One of them narrowly missed a group of Slovenian helicopters.

Shortly after the air assault, two Austrian news photographers were killed when a wayward tank or artillery shell hit their car near the airport, witnesses said. The photographers were not identified.

It was not known how many people had died since the crackdown began. Slovenia's Defense Ministry said about 100 people were killed or injured on both sides by late Thursday.

Before the air attacks, the central government had urged a truce in Slovenia, the westernmost republic of 2 million people.

Slovenian President Milan Kucan said his government was "open for negotiations" but only "after this horror is ended on Slovenian territory."

In Croatia, people anxiously watched the borders, and rival Croat and Serb militia units erected road blocks and searched vehicles. Tanks reportedly rolled through one town Thursday, but no fighting has been reported.

With the threat of civil war still likely, the White House, the Kremlin and European capitals called for peaceful negotiations.

Secessionist leaders had begged for help from the same nations that had warned against their independence drive.

But foreign governments kept to their pledge not to recognize the breakaway republics - traditionally Yugoslavia's most prosperous and its gateway to the West.