SKOPJE - Kiro Gligorov, the architect of Macedonia’s independence and its first president after the break-up of Yugoslavia, has died at the age of 94, his office said Monday.

“Gligorov died late on Sunday at home in Skopje, in his sleep, surrounded by his family,” the head of the office, Zivko Kondev, told AFP.

Once a top official of the communist Yugoslav federation, of which Macedonia was a part, Gligorov led the then Yugoslav republic to independence in September 1991.

He managed to avoid for Macedonia the wars that tore apart Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and peacefully deal with various disputes Skopje had with neighbouring Greece, Albania and Bulgaria.

Under Gligorov, it became a United Nations member, though under the name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYRM) because Athens opposed its use of the name Macedonia, the name of a Greek northern province.

As the first democratically elected president of Macedonia, Gligorov served two terms, from 1991 to 1999.

In October 1995 Gligorov was the target of a car bomb assassination attempt in Skopje. Despite serious injuries, he continued his presidency until the end of his term.

Neither the motive nor the perpetrators have ever been found, while it was speculated that a motive could have been his refusal at the time to join a union with Serbia and Montenegro.

Born in 1917 in the eastern Macedonian town of Stip, Gligorov was a member of Yugoslavia’s anti-fascist movement during World War II.

He held top positions in communist Yugoslavia, including deputy prime minister, member of the collective presidency and speaker of the parliament.

The government proclaimed Tuesday a day of morning in Macedonia.