Yugoslavia's last Prime Minister Ante Markovic, who tried to prevent the former country's bloody breakup in the 1990s, has died at the age of 87.
Croatia's state HINA news agency said Markovic died early Monday in Croatia's capital Zagreb. Dzevad Haznadar, his business partner in Bosnia, said Markovic passed away in his apartment of yet unknown causes after suffering minor cold symptoms.
Markovic, a Croat born in Bosnia, became Yugoslavia's prime minister in March 1989, two years before the former communist country started unraveling along ethnic lines.
During his tenure, Markovic launched an ambitious program of pro-Western economic reforms, including privatization of state-run companies and stabilization of Yugoslavia's currency dinar. The result of his monetary reform was a halt to soaring inflation and temporary rise in the country's living standards.
Markovic was popular among Yugoslavia's liberals because of his reforms which brought the country to the threshold of the European Community, today's European Union. But he was hated by nationalists for his unifying stands and efforts to mediate between increasingly hostile leaderships of the six former Yugoslav republics.
In July 1990, Markovic formed a political party supporting a reformed Yugoslav federation. It was defeated in the elections by nationalist and separatist parties.
Before he resigned in December 1991 under the pressure from nationalists, Markovic tried to find a compromise between Slovenia and Croatia, the republics seeking to secede and Serbia which insisted that Yugoslavia remain a single entity.
His efforts failed and the country plunged into a series of ethnic wars.
"He was always against the war, against the breakup of the country," Bogic Bogicevic, the Bosnian member of Yugoslavia's collective presidency at the time of Markovic's tenure, said. "The others who wanted war and were for the breakup of the country were obviously more successful than him."
Serbia's deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic, who was Markovic's economy adviser 20 years ago, said he was shaken by the death of the "great reformer."
In 2003, Markovic appeared as a prosecution witness at the war crimes trial of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic at a tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.
He testified that Milosevic and former Croatian President Franjo Tudjman both told him that they made an agreement on the eve of the war in Bosnia in 1991 to divide the former Yugoslav republic between Serbia and Croatia.
After the wars, Markovic dedicated himself to a business career and consulting for governments and banks.
He is survived by wife, a son and a daughter.
Associated Press writers Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia, and Sabina Niksic in Sarajevo, Bosnia, contributed to this report.