Montenegro 'very tense' Nato's Clark says

SKOPJE, Feb 21, 2000 -- (Reuters) NATO's military chief said on Sunday that the situation in Yugoslavia's tiny coastal republic of Montenegro was tense and that the alliance closely watched developments there.

U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe, was speaking to reporters during a brief visit to Macedonia.

"I think that there is still a very tense situation there," Clark said when asked about Montenegro, the increasingly reluctant partner to Serbia in the Yugoslav federation.

"It is clear that there is a build-up of Serb capabilities that could threaten (Montenegrin President Milo) Djukanovic and we will be watching this very closely," he said, without elaborating.

Montenegro has taken steps to distance itself from Serbia since NATO's 11-week air war on Yugoslavia last year to punish Belgrade for repression of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

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

Last week, Djukanovic's ruling Democratic Party of Socialists again accused the Yugoslav army of setting up destabilizing paramilitary units in Montenegro. The army has denied this.

The U.S. has said it would stand firm against any Serb military action against Montenegro, but opposes its independence.

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