July 24, 2000YU army blocks Albanian visitors from Montenegro
SHKODER, Albania (Reuters) - Albanian police said Monday that the Yugoslav army had turned away hundreds of Albanians trying to visit Montenegro, Serbia's reluctant partner in the Yugoslav federation.
The action by the army, loyal to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, contravenes an accord between Montenegro and Albania under which Albanians do not need a visa to visit their northern neighbor.
"The Yugoslav army has turned back all Albanian citizens who crossed into Montenegro on the pretext they did not have a federal visa," said local police chief Zija Hasa.
Yugoslavia severed diplomatic relations with Albania after NATO launched an air campaign against its bases last March to stop the Kosovo conflict, saying that Albania had helped the alliance attack its territory.
Some 300 Albanians were forced back at the Yugoslav army checkpoint at Bozaj, 2 miles from the border crossing where Montenegrin police had let them through.
Those turned back said there were three times as many troops, tanks and armored cars than usual at the army checkpoint, which had been reinforced with concrete.
"Belgrade wants to keep fires burning in the Balkans," Albanian foreign ministry spokesman Sokol Gjoka told reporters, adding that the government was closely monitoring the situation.
Montenegrin radio, monitored in the northern Albanian town of Shkoder, also said that some 1,000 Albanians on holiday in Montenegro had been told to return home by July 30.