CEOL
Montenegro not expected to block election

BELGRADE, Aug 4, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic said on Thursday he believed Montenegro's coalition government would not prevent September's federal elections being held in the coastal republic, despite a threatened boycott.

Montenegro's pro-Western leaders, who are increasingly at odds with the federal government in Belgrade, confirmed on Wednesday they would boycott Yugoslav presidential and parliamentary elections on September 24, believing them to be unfair.

They did not make clear whether the boycott meant only that the ruling parties would not run or whether they would try to stop or hinder the polls being held in Montenegro.

But Bulatovic dismissed speculation that the boycott might mean Montenegrins wishing to cast their ballots would have to do so in Yugoslav army barracks in Montenegro, virtually the only places still controlled by Belgrade.

"That is complete nonsense," he said. "There are just a few army barracks in the republic. I believe we will find a solution in cooperation with Montenegro's government to allow everyone in Montenegro who wants to cast ballot to do so," he said.

"That will be the test of their democracy," added Bulatovic, who is also leader of the largest Montenegrin opposition Socialist People's Party (SNP). He was speaking on the sidelines of a gathering of emigre Serbs called Diaspora 2000.

TALKS DUE SOON

He said his party would hold talks with Montenegro's main ruling party in the last week of August.

"We want with these talks, which we have been offering since 1998, to show Montenegro and the entire Yugoslav and international community that problems are not between Podgorica and Belgrade but within Montenegro itself," he said.

The poll, seen as vital in deciding the future of Yugoslavia, is believed to have been called by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to give him the chance to extend his rule for at least four more years.

Bulatovic said his party hoped Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and one of its two coalition partners would change their minds and take part in the elections.

"We believe it would be very good if DPS and the People's Party (NS) run in the ballot. That would open possibilities for a joint life and cooperation within Montenegro and Yugoslavia."

The third coalition partner, the Socialdemocratic Party (SDP), has threatened to pull out of the government if Djukanovic agrees to take part in the elections.

"That Socialdemocratic Party is a great misfortune for Montenegro. Considering that they represent a thin thread of balance, they are trying to impose on Montenegro their party program that has nothing to do with vital interests of Montenegro," Bulatovic said.



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