YU army says no paramilitaries in Montenegro

BELGRADE, Feb 15, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Yugoslav army dismissed allegations on Monday that it was setting up paramilitary units in Montenegro as attempts to discredit it.

"Claims that the Yugoslav Army is establishing paramilitary formations in Montenegro are incorrect and ill-intentioned," Tanjug state news agency quoted an army statement as saying.

Organizational changes by the army in Montenegro were being presented as the creation of paramilitary formations "and used for political purposes to form a negative opinion about the army as an important institution of the federal state," it said.

The statement said the allegations were made in the media by some former members of the army and the Montenegrin leadership.

Montenegro, the junior partner in the Yugoslav federation, has taken steps to distance itself from Serbia since NATO's 11-week air war on Yugoslavia in 1999 to punish Belgrade for its policies in Kosovo.

Montenegro has increased its autonomy in finance and foreign policy, leaving the Yugoslav army as the last joint institution functioning between the two Yugoslav republics.

Former Yugoslav Army Chief General Momcilo Perisic told a Belgrade daily late last year that Yugoslavia had formed paramilitary units inside the army in Montenegro to trigger a conflict with police there.

Montenegro's leader Milo Djukanovic said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was using the army as a tool to keep the republic in check and stop it severing ties with Serbia.

The army said its critics had failed to mention to what extent the Montenegrin police was being reinforced.

"A battallion of military police in Montenegro is an integral part of the Yugoslav army, its equipping and use are in line with regulations and all Montenegrin citizens have equal access," the statement said.

The army said it was surprised at the continued campaign against it from the Montenegrin authorities and said an agreement to work jointly on calming the situation seemed to have been quickly forgotten.

The Yugoslav army and Montenegrin police agreed to cooperate to reduce tensions last December after a tense airport standoff.

The United States has said it would stand firm against any Serb military action against Montenegro but opposed its independence.

Djukanovic said earlier this month it was too early for a breakaway referendum, offering Milosevic more time to consider Montenegro's proposal to reform their joint state.

Original article