Milosevic to campaign in Montenegro - YU PM

PODGORICA, Sep 19, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic will take his election campaign to the coastal republic of Montenegro on Wednesday, Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic said on Monday.

The Western-leaning government in Montenegro, Serbia's junior partner in the Yugoslav federation, is boycotting the September 24 country-wide elections and has even threatened to secede from Yugoslavia if Milosevic wins.

Tension between Serbia and Montenegro has increased in the months ahead of the presidential and parliamentary polls and Milosevic's visit, at the invitation of the pro-Belgrade opposition Socialist People's Party (SNP), could exacerbate it.

With Milosevic trailing the main Serb opposition candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, in opinion polls, some even fear he may try to provoke violence in Montenegro which could provide him with an excuse to declare a state of emergency and cancel the elections.

Bulatovic, who also heads Montenegro's SNP, said Milosevic would address the party's final election rally in the northern town of Berane.

During a visit to the Montenegrin town of Kolasin, Bulatovic urged people to turn out for Wednesday's rally.

"Then all of Montenegro and all of Yugoslavia will have a chance to see that our president will never attack one part of our country and that he would not come on cannon or tanks but on the wings of people's will," he said.


Many Serbian opposition figures fear Milosevic, indicted by a UN court for alleged war crimes in Kosovo last year, will declare victory even if he loses.

Berane is located in an area of Montenegro where most of the population is pro-Serb. The town is also close to the village of Lijeva Rijeka where Milosevic's family comes from.

Despite the Montenegrin boycott, the SNP and some minor parties will take part in the elections. The Montenegrin authorities have said they will not obstruct the vote.

Milosevic has so far restricted his election appearances to carefully-choreographed events, including a visit last Friday to the Zastava car plant in the Serbian town of Kragujevac.

According to unconfirmed rumors, he may later this week open a new sports hall in Belgrade and also inaugurate a bridge across the Danube in the northern town of Novi Sad, whose three bridges were destroyed during last year's NATO air strikes.

Last June, the SNP announced that Milosevic would visit the republic ahead of local elections there, but he never showed up.

Senior officials of Milosevic's Socialist Party said earlier this month that he would also visit Kosovo, the Serbian province now under de facto international rule.

NATO-led peacekeepers responded by saying that Milosevic would be arrested if he tried to come.

Montenegro's government has pledged to cooperate with the UN war crimes tribunal, but Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic has also said the authorities would not take action that could provoke violence.

Original article