July 10, 2000Montenegro threatens YU poll boycott
PODGORICA, Yugoslavia (Reuters) - Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said Monday his republic would boycott federal elections after Belgrade's move to extend the rule of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
In hard-hitting remarks, the pro-Western leader of the coastal republic blasted the Belgrade government as a "dangerous dictatorial regime" and made clear Podgorica would not accept the constitutional changes or any elections under the new rules.
"Montenegro will not participate in such elections if they are organized under circumstances that have been announced with the newly-adopted amendments," he told a news conference.
Djukanovic said the amendments destroyed the Yugoslav federation in its current form.
But he stopped short of declaring independence from internationally shunned Yugoslavia, saying his republic, which has edged away from Belgrade, would not react "nervously and rashly" and give Milosevic a pretext for starting a new war.
Amendments to the Yugoslav constitution, passed by the Serbian-dominated federal parliament last week, allow Milosevic to win a new period in office at the ballot box when his present term expires in mid-2000.
Elections for the federal Yugoslav parliament are due by early November, and some analysts believe Milosevic may go for an early presidential vote at the same time.
NO RUSH FOR INDEPENDENCE
Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said separately that Podgorica would not rush into an independence plebiscite because it might give Milosevic a reason to stir up trouble.
"We shall continue our policy of patience and soft steps to preserve peace and prevent Milosevic from creating another war for the sake of hanging on to his power," Vujanovic said.
Montenegro "shall not declare a referendum as long as conflict is possible and Milosevic could use it to create a crisis in Montenegro," he told reporters after meeting his Albanian and Macedonian counterparts in Durres, Albania.
Montenegro and much larger Serbia are the only republics still in Yugoslavia after Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia broke away during the early 1990s.
Under the amended Yugoslav constitution, not only the president but also the upper chamber of the federal parliament would be directly elected, thereby bypassing the Montenegrin parliament. Under previous rules, the president was elected by the federal parliament and could not run twice.
Djukanovic denounced it as the "most drastic and most dangerous move so far in the toppling of the constitutional and the legal system of the country" based on the 1992 Yugoslav constitution, adding:
"It is certain that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, constituted on these principles, no longer exists today."
The Montenegrin parliament Saturday rejected the amendments to the constitution, branding them as illegal.
Opposition leaders in Belgrade said a more aggressive response from Montenegro could have triggered civil war.
Montenegro has gradually taken over fiscal and monetary affairs from Belgrade, but Djukanovic said the time was not yet ripe for a separate defense ministry.
This was despite charges by his officials last week that Milosevic was using army units in the republic to stir tension and pave the way for a coup.
Djukanovic expressed confidence that the West would not abandon Montenegro. "The international community will react in time and will not wait for war to break out before it reacts."