Croatia asks international community to pressure Belgrade on Montenegro

WASHINGTON, Aug 11, 2000 -- (AFP) Croatian President Stipe Mesic urged the international community Thursday to support pro-western Montenegro in its struggle with Belgrade.

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia president Slobodan "Milosevic has been so far directly responsible for four wars. His goal is to cause a crisis in Montenegro. The international community should send a message to Milosevic. He should not be able to engage in any war" Mesic said at a press conference following a three-day U.S. visit.

"Montenegrins should be allowed to engage (follow their) own road" Mesic said with regard to the possibility of independence for the tiny Balkan republic and FRY member, noting that NATO had defeated the Serb regime in Kosovo.

Montenegrin leaders are planning on boycotting FRY federal elections -- presidential and legislative -- on September 24. Belgrade has underscored its authority over the territory, as it made plain with its arrest of two Britons and two Canadians in early August.

"Our goal is to see a normal democratic process in Montenegro spill over to Serbia. The democratic world needs a democratic Croatia," said Mesic, whose election this year put an end to the 10-year rule of authoritarian nationalist Franjo Tudjman.

"The opposition in Serbia should stop competing with Milosevic in nationalism," said Mesic.

Otherwise, "Serbia's path would be towards Afghanistan" while Croatia heads closer to Europe, Mesic said.

Mesic asked Serbs in Krajina who fled from the Croatian military in that region in 1995, to come home to a democratic Croatia. Some 60,000 Serbes (out of 180,000) have returned to Krajina, Mesic said.

The Croatian president also noted U.S. support for Zagreb's candidacy for NATO and the European Union. "The Croatian armed forces are so close to NATO standards that we expect a NATO membership very soon," said Mesic, who was welcomed with honors in Washington.

Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan, also present on the visit, said: "We received concrete support for our endeavors to approach the EU and NATO.

"What was exceptional importance is the assessment we received that currently the cooperation with Croatia and investments there are safer (than before)," Racan pointed out.

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