Russia worried by tensions within YU

MOSCOW, Mar 11, 2000 -- (Reuters) Russia expressed serious concern on Friday over the lack of progress in overcoming tension between the Yugoslav republics of Serbia and Montenegro, saying the two were moving further apart.

"The lack of progress in the process of normalizing relations between the subjects of the Yugoslav Federation - Serbia and Montenegro - provokes serious concern," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Montenegro's leadership has a tense relationship with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic over his policies and the ill-feeling was heightened last week when Serb police blocked all trade between the two republics. The tiny republic of Montenegro is Serbia's junior partner in the Yugoslav federation. It has been pulling away from Belgrade in frustration at the lack of economic and democratic reforms under Milosevic.

The West has imposed sanctions on Belgrade for its role in a decade of Balkan wars, and NATO fought an air war last year to force Yugoslav troops out of the province of Kosovo.

Russia was strongly opposed to the alliance's 11-week-long air strike campaign against Moscow's Slav, Orthodox Christian brethren in Yugoslavia, and since then Moscow has called for the continued territorial integrity of the region.

"In connection with this, we would like to again call on Belgrade and Podgorica to search for compromises, a constitutional solution from a constructive dialogue," the foreign ministry said.

"In our opinion that is the only approach to bring stability to the domestic political situation."

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