Serb police tighten trade blockade with Montenegro

BELGRADE, Mar 6, 2000 -- (Reuters) Serb police have tightened a blockade on trade between Serbia and the western-leaning Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, newspapers said on Sunday.

One of the papers, the Montengro-based Pobjeda, said police were even stopping Yugoslav army trucks carrying food for troops based in Montenegro from crossing, sparking angry exchanges.

Belgrade-based independent media said more goods were being blocked than before, but did not mention the army.

"Since the day before yesterday, according to unofficial information, procedures for the passage of trucks with goods through the control point at the border between Serbia and Montenegro became stricter," the Glas Javnosti daily said.

Montenegro, the last republic left with Serbia in Yugoslavia, has been inching away from the influence of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's government in Belgrade since pro-Western President Milo Djukanovic was elected in 1997.

Montenengro legalised the German mark last year to try to escape inflationary trends in Serbia and Serb police retaliated by stopping certain goods, especially fuel, crossing the border.

Glas said that since mid-February only a certain type of wood, building material and sweets were allowed from Serbia to Montenegro. Since Friday even those were blocked, although aluminium and iron are still allowed into Serbia, it said.

Pobjeda said goods in private cars were also blocked.

"Pobjeda learned that not even army trucks carrying food for Yugoslav army units in Montenegro were allowed through. That's why, the source said, there were some unpleasant situations between the border police and army police at the crossing during an attempt to transport army rations to Montenegro," it said.

The Montenegrin government offered to pay troops based in the republic in German marks after its move to legalise them drove most Yugoslav dinars out of circulation there.

The condition was that the troops help overcome the trade blockade by bringing goods purchased in Serbia into Montenegro.

The military, whose leaders are thought to be loyal to Milosevic, publicly rejected the move, and it was not immediately possible to confirm whether any trucks had tried to cross the border with extra goods, or had indeed been stopped.

The blockade was the latest sign of tensions between the two republics, which recently flared over the Montenegrin government's decision to open a border crossing with Albania.

Belgrade said the decision was illegal and the army set up checkpoints at the crossing, checking travellers' documents but allowing traffic to flow through the crossing.

Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic told Saturday's Vijesti newspaper he had had several meetings with the commander of the Montenegrin-based Second Army to try to ease tensions but declined to say when or what was discussed.

Original article