CEOL
YU army checkpoint by Montenegrin-Albanian border

PODGORICA, Yugoslavia, Mar 1, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Yugoslav army set up checkpoints near the Montenegro-Albania frontier on Tuesday, checking travelers' documents but allowing traffic to flow through a reopened border crossing.

The army declared on Monday that a 1997 decision to close the border was still in force, meaning, in effect, that last Thursday's reopening of the crossing point by the governments of Albania and Western-leaning Montenegro was illegal.

But the crossing itself remained open for traffic on Tuesday evening.

A Reuters reporter found that the Second Army, whose area of responsibility includes Montenegro, had set up two separate checkpoints near each other about two km (1.25 miles) from the Bozaje border crossing.

A few military policemen in bullet-proof vests and armed with automatic rifles manned the checkpoints, letting vehicles through after writing down the license plate numbers.

Montenegrin police, seen as loyal to the republic's independence-minded leadership, were manning the crossing itself, checking luggage of those entering from Albania.

Around 300 people and 50 vehicles pass the Bozaje crossing daily.

On Monday, the army also denied Montenegrin media reports that it had raised its combat readiness in the republic following the reopening of the border.

The Montenegrin pro-government daily Pobjeda said on Sunday that soldiers and heavy weaponry had been deployed near the crossing, which the Yugoslav supreme defense council closed three years ago when Albania plunged into anarchy.

Montenegro, which is Serbia's last remaining partner in the Yugoslav federation, has distanced itself from Belgrade's policies since NATO's 11-week bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 over Serbia's 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 still functioning in both republics.

Last week, NATO's military chief, U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, described the situation in Montenegro as very tense and said the alliance was closely watching developments there.




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