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Sunday, April 4, 1999 Published at 21:16 GMT 22:16 UK

World: Europe

Thousands attend pro-Serbian concert

A young boy gives the Serb salute at the concert

By Jacky Rowland in Podgorica

Thousands of people have attended an open-air concert in the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro to protest against Nato air strikes.

Kosovo: Special Report
Opening the concert, a number of speakers called for unity between Montenegro, Serbia and the province of Kosovo.

Officials had expressed fears that the concert could be hi-jacked by people who they say are plotting to oust the government.

But the event on Sunday seemed to pass off peacefully.

The atmosphere in the central square of the capital Podgorica was thick with nationalism and defiance.

[ image: Atmosphere of defiance]
Atmosphere of defiance
Thousands of people carrying the red, white and blue flag of Yugoslavia and Serbia gathered to listen to patriotic songs and speeches. Others held banners comparing Nato to the Nazis.

At the start of the concert, one speaker accused Nato of destroying Serb monasteries and killing new-born babies.

Nervous wait

He called for Montenegro to stand firm with Serbia and Kosovo. The crowds greeted his speeches with enthusiasm, many people giving the three-fingered salute of the Serbs.

The government in Montenegro was waiting nervously to see how the concert went.

[ image: Thousands attended the event]
Thousands attended the event
Senior officials say they believe the forces of the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, will use the size and mood of the crowds to gauge whether Montenegro is ripe for a coup attempt.

Last Wednesday, he replaced the head of the Yugoslav army in Montenegro, in what local and Western officials described as an ominous sign.

Officials in Montenegro say Mr Milosevic has been waiting for some time for an opportunity to oust the reform-minded president here, Milo Djukanovic.

They predict he may use the atmosphere of instability caused by Nato air strikes and the war in Kosovo to finally make his move.

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