Serbia in chaos, Montenegrin official says

PODGORICA, Feb 9, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Western-leaning leadership of Montenegro reacted with shock on Tuesday at the killing of Yugoslav Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic, who was born in the coastal republic.

"Serbia has become a country of chaos, dictatorship and despair," said Miodrag Vukovic, a senior official of Montenegro's ruling Democratic Party of Socialists of President Milo Djukanovic and a political opponent of Bulatovic.

He said the lives of not only criminals and public figures, but also ordinary people, were in danger.

"It is the obligation of the Yugoslav leadership to address the nation and explain why this country has become such a dangerous place to live in," Vukovic told reporters.

Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said the republic would now have to step up protection of government officials.

"This is very worrying and obliges us to protect officials in such a way that similar risks for them are excluded in the future," Vujanovic told reporters.

"I agree with the Yugoslav authorities' statement in which they say the killing was a terrorist act and I am pleased that they have shown determination to solve this crime quickly."

Bulatovic, who had held the defense portfolio since 1993, was a senior member of Montenegro's Socialist People's Party, loyal to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

His party is a member of the federal government but in opposition in Montenegro. The leadership of Montenegro has threatened to hold a referendum on independence unless Serbia agrees to reform their joint state.

The Montenegrin parliament cancelled a previously scheduled session on Tuesday.

Braca Grubacic, editor of VIP, a political newsletter in Belgrade, expressed concern that Bulatovic's murder could raise tension in Montenegro and spark other killings.

Igor Korotchenko, former Russian General Staff officer who now writes for the military newspaper Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, said it could lead to destabilization of Yugoslavia.

"The murdered minister was a Montenegrin and he found the chance to soften the personal antipathy between Djukanovic and Milosevic," Korotchenko, who interviewed Bulatovic last month, told Reuters in Moscow.

"Now there won't be such a person. Yugoslavia's new minister of defense is likely to be the present chief of General Staff," General Dragoljub Ojdanic, he said. "He will of course not play such a stabilizing role as the murdered defense minister."

Zarko Rakcevic, leader of the Montenegrin Socialdemocratic Party, also part of the ruling coalition, said of the recent killings in Serbia: "Montenegro should do everything not to let this wave of violence spill over and become a way of political struggle."

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