YU army denies it is threat to Montenegro

BELGRADE, Mar 17, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Yugoslav army said on Thursday it posed no threat to Montenegro and that alarmist reports about its activities were aimed at creating a psychosis of fear.

"The Yugoslav army (VJ) on the territory of Montenegro is the army of all its citizens, it is on its own territory and with its own people," the Second Army and Navy commands said in a statement.

Montenegro's Western-leaning President Milo Djukanovic, a fierce foe of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, on Tuesday urged the army to be neutral instead of siding with Serbia, Montenegro's larger partner in the two-republic federation.

Montenegro has distanced itself from Milosevic's government since Djukanovic became president in 1997 and has threatened a referendum on independence if it is not granted equal status within the federation.

The army statement said that "sowing fear of possible civil war and manipulations with the role of the army" were a part of propaganda and psychological pressures on Yugoslavia from abroad and from certain leaders of Montenegro's ruling coalition.

"Overall activity against the VJ in Montenegro corresponds with activities of the external factor and is aimed at weakening the combat value of its units with a clear intention to strip the army of its constitutional functions," it said.

Reports of intensified VJ movements in and around Montenegro have raised fears Milosevic is tightening the noose around the republic's government by supporting its opposition loyal to Belgrade.

Western leaders have warned Milosevic to keep his hands off Montenegro.

The army said it acted strictly in line with the constitution, which applied to the whole of Yugoslavia and in no way threatened Montenegro. It added that Montenegrin officials' statements on army actions were ill-intentioned and groundless.

Original article