The Nando times - YU premier warns Nato to stay out of Montenegro conflict

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (December 12, 1999) - Yugoslavia's premier warned NATO against any attempt to intervene in tensions between Montenegro and Serbia, saying the army would defend the country, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Premier Momir Bulatovic made the comments Saturday after U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark said NATO was watching "very closely" the situation in Montenegro. The republic, long chafing at Serbia's domination of Yugoslavia, has sought greater autonomy, or even independence.

Fears were raised of a new conflict in the region when the Serb-led federal army engaged in a brief standoff last week with Montenegro's police force over Montenegro's main airport.

"NATO should mind its own business," Bulatovic was quoted as saying in response to Clark. "The army has nothing to do with politics but it has to do with defending the country from any NATO aggression, so we can tell them: Come here if you dare."

"They should know that in Montenegro they would meet armed resistance of the Yugoslav army and of all citizens of Yugoslavia," said Bulatovic, a close ally of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Earlier this year, NATO bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days until Milosevic agreed to withdraw his forces from Serbia's southern Kosovo province, where ethnic Albanians were fighting for independence.

Bulatovic said the pullout from Kosovo was "honorable," but in case of a new war, "there cannot be any pullout from the territory of Montenegro."

Elsewhere Sunday, top government officials of Yugoslavia and Russia agreed on broader economic cooperation and Russian aid to help Yugoslavia recover from the devastating NATO bombing.

Russia already delivers natural gas to cash-strapped Yugoslavia to relieve its energy shortages. Now, Russia and Yugoslavia will expand trade, the state Tanjug news agency reported. It quoted Russia's economics minister, Andrei Shapovalyants.

No figures were specified, but negotiators in Belgrade said the countries will reduce customs duties and minimize other obstacles to improve mutual trade. The talks were expected to continue Monday and Tuesday.

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