Djukanovic vows to avoid Belgrade 'pitfalls'

BRUSSELS, Apr 6, 2000 -- (Reuters) Montenegro's President Milo Djukanovic said on Wednesday that Serbia's sister republic would withstand what he termed attempts by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to destabilize it.

Djukanovic told reporters after meeting European Union officials in Brussels that "it is evident that Mr Milosevic is exacerbating the crisis in Montenegro."

"We are conscious that time is on our side...and that's why we are trying very hard to avoid all the pitfalls that the Belgrade regime has created for us because we are confident that any more escalation would play into their hands and it would be to our detriment. I'm confident that we'll succeed."

He said Montenegro's government was "trying to be a responsible government, which will not make nervous moves or provoke instability."

A concerned EU has rallied around Montenegro, pledging to help the pro-western Adriatic republic withstand the destabilising influence of Milosevic.

EU officials said the bloc's foreign ministers would discuss ways to help Montenegro and convey a new message of support when they meet in Luxembourg on Monday.

One official said that Djukanovic received praise during Wednesday's visit from the EU's top foreign policy representative Javier Solana for the skilful way he was managing his approach to both Serbia and the West.

Djukanovic has repeatedly said that he believes Milosevic is sowing the seeds of a new conflict in the tiny republic.

EU leaders expressed their concern at the situation in Montenegro at a summit in Lisbon two weeks ago, saying substantial aid was urgently needed for Montenegro "to ensure the survival of democratic government and to avoid another serious crisis in the region."

During his visit, Djukanovic discussed ways of spending 15 million euros of quick start financial aid agreed by international donors at a meeting last week aimed at sowing the seeds of stability in the Balkans.

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