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Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 22:30 GMT
No breakthrough on Montenegrin status
Milo Djukanovic and Vojislav Kostunica
There has been little progress on meeting Montenegro's demands
By Diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason

The Yugoslav federation's top military body has put out an optimistic statement about the prospects for stability after a meeting of the presidents of Yugoslavia and Montenegro.

Senior military officers also attended the session of the Supreme Defence Council in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica.

But there was no clear sign of progress on Montenegro's demand for a looser relationship with Belgrade and a shake-up in the Yugoslav army command.

The Supreme Defence Council said that after the democratic changes in Serbia the security situation was increasingly favourable and stable.

Montenegrin special forces
Montenegro wants a looser relationship with Serbia
Conditions now existed for the democratic development of the Yugoslav federation, it said.

That looks like a vague holding position: Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic is demanding a much looser relationship between tiny Montenegro and Serbia, essentially of two sovereign states who would conduct joint policies in certain fields - foreign policy for example.

Montenegrin demands

Since the election of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, there is no longer any western support for the outright independence of Montenegro.

Before the meeting, the Montenegrin newspaper Vijesti said Mr Djukanovic would demand the disbanding of the Yugoslav army's Seventh Battalion in Montenegro, which his government regards as a paramilitary force set up by former President Milosevic to intimidate the republic.

Another demand was said to be the sacking of senior Yugoslav army commanders associated with Mr Milosevic, including the Chief of Staff, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who attended the Defence Council meeting.

That is a step which Mr Kostunica is probably unwilling or unable to take for the time being, as he moves carefully to consolidate his power.

Election muddle

The relationship between Mr Kostunica and Mr Djukanovic is made more complicated by the constitutional muddle left over from the Yugoslav elections in September.

The Montenegrin government boycotted them on the grounds that they were illegal, so there are no Djukanovic supporters in the federal parliament.

Mr Kostunica is obliged to rely for a majority on Montenegrin members who used to support Mr Milosevic.

He has failed to persuade Mr Djukanovic to take part in the new federal government, which is expected to be approved in the next few days.

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See also:

01 Nov 00 | Europe
UN embraces Yugoslavia
16 Oct 00 | Europe
Deal breaks Serbia deadlock
17 Oct 00 | Europe
Kostunica in Montenegro stalemate
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