CEOL - Montenegrin PM Talks Security With Yugo Army Chief

PODGORICA, Nov 5, 1999 -- (Reuters) The prime minister of pro-Western Montenegro said on Thursday he had met the Yugoslav army's chief of staff to discuss the political and security situation in the small coastal republic.

News about Wednesday's meeting between Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic and army chief of staff Dragoljub Ojdanic in Podgorica was unexpected because the Yugoslav army and Montenegro have been at odds over the last several months.

Vujanovic told Reuters he met Ojdanic to discuss "issues relevant to the relations between the army and police and between the army and state institutions in Montenegro".

He said the talks were aimed at "establishing an environment in which any incident will be avoided".

The army top brass is known to be loyal to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who is a political foe of Montenegro's reformist president, Milo Djukanovic.

During NATO's air war against Yugoslavia from the last week of March to early June over its repression of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian populations, Montenegro's authorities advised its citizens not to respond to army call ups. Its parliament is due to discuss an amnesty for those who dodged the draft.

Djukanovic pledged after the conflict to cooperate fully with the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague and to extradite anyone indicted by the tribunal.

He was also quoted as saying that "Montenegro will hand over to the international tribunal anyone indicted for war crimes who happens to be in the territory of Montenegro".

The tribunal in May indicted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Ojdanic and three other senior Yugoslav and Serb officials for alleged crimes committed in Kosovo.

Ojdanic was this week touring army and navy installations in Montenegro.

A joint statement from Vujanovic's office and army headquarters said the premier met with the army top brass as Djukanovic, currently in Washington, was away.

"I will always talk to all relevant people if that is, and this is, in the interest of Montenegro and our joint state," Vujanovic said.

Also on Wednesday, Montenegrin Interior Minister Vukasin Maras held separate talks with senior army representatives.

The meetings took place the day after Montenegro decided to legalise the German mark as a local currency to protect its economy from the threat of hyperinflation in Serbia, the dominant republic.

Montenegro and its larger sister republic Serbia make up the Yugoslav federation, but the two republics have been at odds since 1997, when Djukanovic came to power.

Montenegro is pushing for economic and political reforms and closer ties with the West while Serbia remains isolated by the international community over its role in this decade's Balkan wars.

Ruling parties of the two republics last month started talks on reshaping Yugoslavia. Montenegro has threatened to quit the federation if it does not get more autonomy.