IHT - Feud at airport in Montenegro

Paris, Friday, December 10, 1999

Compiled by Our Staff From Dispatches

PODGORICA, Montenegro - The airport in Western-leaning Montenegro reopened Thursday morning after a standoff between the Yugoslav Army and Montenegrin police ended peacefully, local media and flight officials reported.

It was the gravest sign yet of tensions between the government of President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia and the leadership of Montenegro, which has threatened to declare independence if he does not reform their joint federation. The incident came after Montenegro in November unilaterally proclaimed the airport, which is the republic's main commercial airport but part of which is a Yugoslav Air Force base controlled by the Yugoslav Army, to be Montenegrin state property.

The independent B2-92 radio quoted the Montenegrin transport minister, Jusuf Kalamperovic, as saying that all problems had been ironed out and that the airport in Podgorica was reopened at 8 A.M. A flight controller at the airport in Belgrade said he had issued instructions that flights to Montenegro could resume. On Wednesday, the Yugoslav federal air-traffic directorate closed the airport and suspended traffic citing safety grounds. Earlier, the army took up positions in a standoff with the Montenegrin police and officials over control of the facility.

Mr. Kalamperovic said the problem arose when the army prevented the police from building a hangar at the airport, prompting an increase in tension. He told the Montenafax news agency that army troops in combat gear had blocked part of the airport.


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