Milosevic says peace to be defended 'by all means'

PRISTINA, Mar 14, 2000 -- (Reuters) President Slobodan Milosevic said on Monday that Yugoslavia would defend peace with all its means, Serbian state television reported.

"Yugoslavia is firmly committed to peace and development in freedom as the greatest national interest which it is determined to defend with all means," Milosevic was quoted by state television as telling recently appointed army officres.

He did not elaborate.

Milosevic's words came amid reports of growing Serb-Albanian tension in southern Serbia on the administrative border with Kosovo and increasingly strained relations with Montenegro, Serbia's smaller partner in the Yugoslav federation.

The statement also coincided with worsening tensions between Milosevic's government and Serbia's reunited opposition over an intensifying state crackdown on independent media.

Speaking in Sofia on Monday, NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark expressed concern at the situation in Yugoslavia.

"Milosevic has continued to tighten his grip on the opposition and I remain increasingly concerned about what I see as the further deepening of this increasingly totalitarian regime in Belgrade," he said.

Speaking about the situation in Montenegro, Clark warned that NATO was "watching very closely what's happening in Montenegro as Milosevic tightens the noose".

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