Nato dividing Serbia and Montenegro

BELGRADE, Apr 27, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslavia's army chief on Wednesday accused NATO of driving a wedge between Serbia and Montenegro, the two republics in the Yugoslav federation, to draw attention away from the West's failure in Kosovo.

"The foreign factor, and more precisely those who bombed us last year, are intensely widening the rift between Montenegro and Serbia and the federal institutions," General Nebojsa Pavkovic said in an interview with Nedeljni Telegraf weekly.

Tiny Montenegro has little military power but has been drawing away from Serbia and following western-leaning policies since its reformist President Milo Djukanovic took over in 1997.

NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark on Tuesday warned Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to stop intimidating the coastal republic. Clark said Milosevic had increased pressure on Montenegro by strengthening the Yugoslav army presence there.

Pavkovic said claims the army was inciting conflict in Montenegro were unfounded and that all its activities in the republic were regular.

"NATO generals are used to making threats. They do not hesitate to make threats with naked military force and blows from a distance," he said.

"The intention is to create an impression that a foreign military intervention is needed, like in Kosovo," Pavkovic said.

Pavkovic repeated calls for the Yugoslav army to be allowed to return to Kosovo, controlled by NATO-led peacekeepers and United Nations administrators since last year's NATO air strikes forced Yugoslav forces to withdraw.

Since the March-to-June air campaign, more than 200,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians have fled Kosovo, often after being attacked by ethnic Albanians. Many of those left live in tense enclaves guarded by NATO troops.

"We are worried about the difficult situation that the remaining Serbs in Kosovo are in. I am afraid they fear they have been abandoned," Pavkovic said.

Pavkovic said KFOR had not been able to secure Kosovo's border with Albania nor provide safety for non-Albanians, and that the international mission there had collapsed.

"They allowed Albanians to pressure Serbs to move out from Kosovo, which has thus becomes ethnically pure. What has come of their multi-ethnic Kosovo?" Pavkovic said.

In a reference to speculation about army involvement in any unrest in Serbia, Pavkovic denied the army was politicized. But he said it would act within its legal role to defend the constitutional order of the country from any attacks.

"Events should not be prejudged and the army tested. The army has the force, which is controlled by the legal civilian authorities. I would not recommend to anyone to test the army's combat readiness in that way," Pavkovic said.

Original article