Nato warns Milosevic on Kosovo, Montenegro

BUDAPEST, Mar 18, 2000 -- (Reuters) NATO Secretary-General George Robertson bluntly told Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on Friday to stop meddling in Montenegro and Kosovo.

The NATO chief called on Milosevic to lift an economic blockade in effect against Yugoslavia's Western-leaning republic of Montenegro.

He also squarely put the blame on Milosevic for most of the current tension in Kosovo, where Serbs are blocking Albanians from entering the north of the divided city of Mitrovica and where shadowy Albanian guerrilla elements are operating on the boundary with southern Serbia.

"Milosevic is behind a lot of the trouble (in Kosovo) as we already know but there are some hotheads on both sides," Robertson said.

The former British defense secretary was to attend a meeting of regional prime ministers to discuss Balkan reconstruction and stabilization a year after NATO began three months of air strikes against Yugoslavia.

Robertson said NATO, with recent reinforcements, had the manpower it needed in Kosovo.

"There are enough troops in place," Robertson said, adding that General Klaus Reinhardt, commander of the Kosovo peacekeeping force KFOR, was in control of the situation.

"The vast majority of Kosovo life is getting back to normal and people are rebuilding their lives," Robertson said.

He accused Milosevic of causing trouble in Montenegro by undermining the government of elected President Milo Djukanovic.

"I would publicly call on President Milosevic today to end an economic blockade of Montenegro. That blockade is a provocation and it seeks to undermine the authority of the elected government of Montenegro," Robertson said.

Serbia, the dominant partner in the two-republic Yugoslav federation, almost sealed off the inter-republic border earlier this month, preventing any trade between Serbia and Montenegro.

Robertson spoke after meeting Prime Minister Viktor Orban for talks on Hungary's growing role in NATO and ahead of the gathering of prime ministers of five countries neighboring Yugoslavia.

Belgrade has never officially admitted the blockade, but Montenegro said it was designed to destabilize the smaller republic, which is generally edging away from the federation dominated by Milosevic's loyalists.

Original article