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The BBC's Jacky Rowland
"Milo Djukanovic is in a difficult position"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
Montenegro resists election pressure
Milo Djukanovic and Madeleine Albright
Milo Djukanovic is coming under pressure to participate
The leadership of the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro is continuing to resist pressure to take part in federal elections scheduled for September.

After meeting Serbian opposition leaders, a Montenegrin spokesman said the republic could not participate in the poll because of recent changes to the constitution made by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

We cannot accept illegitimate decisions taken by illegitimate institutions

Miodrag Vukovic
Mr Milosevic has made recent amendments to the constitution, which opponents say increase his chances of re-election, as well as downgrading the status of Montenegro within the federation.

Montenegro's announcement comes a day after the United States called on all opponents of Mr Milosevic to unite and defeat him.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met the Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic in Rome to urge him to reconsider his position.

No participation

But speaking at a news conference, Mr Djukanovic said that during the talks, he had told Mrs Albright that Montenegrin participation was out of the question.

Presidential aide Miodrag Vukovic reinforced Mr Djukanovic's statement, saying his ruling party would not enter the polls.

Filip Vujanovic
Filip Vujanovic refuses to agree to Serb opposition requests to take part
"[We] will not take part in the elections. Our principle is that we cannot accept illegitimate decisions taken by illegitimate institutions," he said.

"For Montenegro, these elections are non-existent and totally ineffective," he added.

Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic also met 15 representatives of the Serbian opposition who echoed Mrs Albright's words, but issued a similar statement reinforcing Montenegro's abstention.

Despite this, some Serbian opposition leaders say the Montenegrins may yet change their minds.

No decision

However this still leaves the leader of the largest opposition party, Vuk Draskovic, holding out against participation. He says his party will also boycott the polls unless Montenegro takes part.

Zoran Djindjic
Zoran Djindjic has not given up hope of fielding a united front
Mr Draskovic's main rival in the Serbian opposition Zoran Djindjic, said his Democratic Party had also disagreed with the Montenegrins, but was yet to reach a final decision on whether to stand.

"We talked about elections and whether we would get to a democratic state sooner by participation in the polls, no matter how unfair they may be, or by a boycott," said Mr Djindjic.

"We have different views, will continue talks at expert level and I expect a decision on elections within the next 10 days," he added.

Joint candidate

Opposition leaders say they have not given up hope of choosing a joint candidate to stand against Mr Milosevic, but with only seven weeks to go until polling day, time is running out.

Correspondents say the continuing disarray of the opposition plays into the hands of Mr Milosevic, whose own election campaign is well under way.

Other Serbian opposition parties will press on with attempting to find a suitable joint presidential candidate, and say they will announce their candidate on Thursday.

The favourite is Vojislav Kostunica, moderate nationalist leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia, who according to a recent opinion poll had a 14% lead over Mr Milosevic and Mr Djukanovic in Serbia.

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See also:

01 Aug 00 | Europe
US pressing to topple Milosevic
06 Jul 00 | Europe
Milosevic: No signs of bowing out
16 Jun 00 | Europe
Serbia: The politics of bloodshed
24 Mar 00 | Europe
Milosevic still standing strong
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