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Friday, 3 November, 2000, 17:35 GMT
Poll threatens Yugoslav unity
Milo Djukanovic: Favours alliance of sovereign states
The Yugoslav Republic of Montenegro is pressing ahead with a planned referendum on loosening ties with Serbia, despite the democratic changes in Belgrade.

I think it would be a great error to erect barriers between us

Milo Djukanovic
Montenegro's pro-Western government agreed to hold the referendum by the end of next June.

But it is still unclear whether voters will be asked about full independence, or a looser confederation with Serbia.

That depends on the outcome of talks - expected to start early next year - over Montenegro's relations with Serbia.

Montenegro and Serbia are the last partners in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, after Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina broke away.

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said on Thursday that he favoured an alliance of separate sovereign states with certain common aspects.

'No rush'

He told Serbian TV: "Our proposal is for an alliance between Montenegro and Serbia covering three key functions: a common army, a common foreign policy and a common currency."

However there was no rush, the Montenegrin president said, to find a suitable framework for redefining ties between the two countries.

Vojislav Kostunica has backed democratic change for Montenegro
"It is in Serbia's and Montenegro's interest to find quality solutions which are acceptable both to our citizens and to the international community," he said.

Mr Djukanovic said that the proposal would need revisiting after the Serbian general election, expected to be on 23 December.

"Even if we were two independent states, I think it would be a great error to erect barriers between us," he said.

Although he welcomed Yugoslavia's re-entry into the United Nations, Mr Djukanovic signalled that he would seek international recognition of Montenegro's sovereignty.

"My view is that our states could have two seats at the United Nations if the people of Serbia and Montenegro opt for this solution," he said.

New era

Relations between the two partners came under massive strain earlier this year when then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic pushed through constitutional changes that diminished Montenegro's standing in the federation.

But Vojislav Kostunica, who defeated Mr Milosevic in 24 September presidential elections, has insisted that things have now changed.

He says that, with the new situation in Serbia, "the conditions will be met for the democratic authorities" in the two republics to "make a democratic decision over the future destiny of their peoples".

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See also:

01 Nov 00 | Europe
UN embraces Yugoslavia
02 Nov 00 | Europe
Yugoslavia comes in from the cold
01 Nov 00 | Europe
New bid to prevent Yugoslav break
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