Montenegro protests, says won't provoke Belgrade

BERLIN, Jul 26, 2000 -- (Reuters) Montenegro's President Milo Djukanovic said on Tuesday his pro-Western government strongly opposed recent changes to Yugoslavia's constitution but would avoid provoking President Slobodan Milosevic.

The parliament in Belgrade passed the amendments earlier this month. They opened the way for Milosevic to serve another eight years as president of the Yugoslav federation, which groups Montenegro and the larger republic Serbia.

"These measures were pushed through to provoke the democratically elected government of Montenegro and induce a nervous reaction leading to the introduction of direct military rule," Djukanovic told a news conference in Berlin.

"We are in a situation where we must avoid these provocations by Milosevic," he added, speaking after talks with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.

Montenegro, bordering Albania, is the junior and increasingly discontented member of the Yugoslav federation.


At the same news conference, Fischer echoed a Group of Eight summit statement last weekend that condemned Milosevic's power play and he voiced concern about the constitutional changes.

"We are both very distressed about the unacceptable changes to the constitution, which were whipped through the lawmaking bodies by Milosevic with questionable tactics which go against all rules of democratic processes," he said.

"We are committed and in full solidarity with Montenegro."

European leaders at the G8 summit said the international community should not recognize Yugoslav election results based on the new laws Milosevic has pushed through.

Djukanovic has said his republic, with only 650,000 inhabitants, would boycott federal elections held under the rules because they denied it equality with 10-million-strong Serbia.

Montenegro has said it might hold a referendum on independence if Milosevic wins another term, a move the West fears could ignite another Balkan conflict.

"I can very openly say that Montenegro will not undertake any steps that would lead to another war in Yugoslavia," Djukanovic said on Tuesday.

"But we are also not prepared to make bad compromises with regard to the democratization, economic reforms and the integration in European and transatlantic structures."

"Montenegro will be democratic, multi-ethnic and European with or without Serbia."

Djukanovic, travelling with his Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac, was also expected to meet German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's top foreign policy adviser Michael Steiner.

He would then travel to Paris to meet French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine later on Tuesday.

Original article