The military said Tuesday it would stay out of politics but would not allow a civil war in this disintegrating federation.

There has been intense speculation over whether the army would intervene on the side of Serbia's hard-line communist government in its dispute with other republics over the future of the nation.But in a statement distributed by the official Tanjug news agency, the military took a middle-of-the-road stance that appeared to lessen the possibility the army would take control of the country.

"The Yugoslav army, as it has so far, shall not interfere into political agreements about the future of the country," the statement said.

But it said that it "shall in no circumstances permit inter-ethnic armed clashes and a civil war in Yugoslavia." It also said it would stop any violent fueds within a single republic or ethnic group.

The statement indicated the army would be willing to clamp down on any renewed street unrest like the clashes between police and pro-democracy demonstrators in Belgrade on March 9.

The heart of the dispute among the republics is how power should be distributed between them and the federal government. Slovenia and Croatia want a loose confederation of states that have virtual sovereignty, but Serbia wants a strong federal government with tight control over the republics.

Serbia's opponents also have accused its hard-line president, Slobodan Milosevic, of trying to provoke ethnic conflicts between Serbs and Croats, or among ethnic Albanians in Serbia's Kosovo province.

Vasil Tupurkovski, Macedonia's representative on the federal presidency, said Monday that the body had not had any communication from the armed forces command for two days.

But he refused to characterize the military's silence as insubordination and said he expected normal contacts to be re-established.

The presidency is made up of leaders from the six republics and from the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina, both in Serbia.

Under the constitution, the presidency commands the armed forces. But it has been paralyzed since Milosevic on Saturday declared his defiance of the body after he failed to get approval for a nationwide state of emergency.

Since then, four members of the presidential body have either resigned or been forced out.