Del Ponte to visit Montenegro despite Belgrade 'No'

SKOPJE, Jun 20, 2000 -- (Reuters) UN war crimes tribunal prosecutor Carla Del Ponte will go ahead with a visit to Montenegro even though the Yugoslav government said it had denied her access to the country, an aide said on Monday.

Dominique Reymond, special adviser to Del Ponte, told Reuters that she would travel to Montenegro on Wednesday and would meet with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic.

"She is coming as a guest of the government," Reymond said.

The coastal republic of Montenegro is an increasingly reluctant partner of Serbia in the Yugoslav federation.

On Friday, Montenegrin loyalists of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic said they would stage a mass protest to block the visit if Del Ponte went ahead with it.

Del Ponte held talks with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski in Skopje on Monday, but did not show up for a scheduled news conference.

She was due to visit Kosovo, under de facto international rule following last year's NATO bombing campaign on Yugoslavia, before heading to Montenegro.

The Yugoslav foreign ministry said on Saturday that Del Ponte did not have permission or a visa to visit Yugoslavia.

"Carla Del Ponte is a NATO administration clerk and such a person does not have permission from Yugoslav authorities nor does she have a visa for a visit to any part of the country's sovereign territory," a ministry statement said.

Montenegro's independence-minded government has been at odds with Milosevic for years, pursuing pro-Western economic and democratic reforms and even threatening to secede if Belgrade ignored its reformist policies.

The Hague tribunal has indicted Milosevic and four of his closest aides for atrocities Yugoslav security forces allegedly committed in Kosovo before NATO's air campaign drove them from the ethnic-Albanian dominated province last year.

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