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Wednesday, April 7, 1999 Published at 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK

World: Europe

Fears for neutral Montenegro

One of many pro-Serbia rallies across Montenegro

Montenegro, part of the Yugoslav Federation, is trying to stay neutral in the Kosovo conflict, but is coming under severe pressure to join Serbia. The BBC's Jeremy Bowen felt the tension in capital Podgorica.

Kosovo: Special Report
Yugoslav flags and hundreds of supporters of Slobodan Milosevic - this could be the heart of Serbia but it is Montenegro, the junior partner in the Yugoslav Federation.

People like those pictured above consider themselves loyal Serbs. They are disgusted that the Montenegrin government is staying neutral in Serbia's fight.

The BBC's Jeremy Bowen: "It's tense, it's divided and there's the smell of violence"
One law student, on his way to join the Yugoslav army, considered that he was fighting for his fellow Serbs.

"We fight for our people, our country," he said.

[ image: Montenegro is under severe pressure to join Serbia]
Montenegro is under severe pressure to join Serbia
At the TV station in the capital, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's message of support for the Montenegrin Government was broadcast on Tuesday.

Troops at TV station

Mr Blair said that because Montenegro must stay neutral, Britain and the West would protect it.

The TV station has been fortified by special police units of the Montenegrin Government - who do not like being filmed.

[ image: Paramilitary police are protecting the city]
Paramilitary police are protecting the city
On Sunday night, without firing a shot, they faced down an attempt by Belgrade's troops to get into the building.

Montenegrin paramilitary police are also deployed around Podgorica in case the forces Milosevic has based there try to seize the city, to bring Montenegro into the war.

Rallies every night

Dragon Soc, Montenegro's justice minister, has been threatened by Yugoslav troops for refusing to join their army. He says he will only fight for Montenegro.

[ image: Justice minister Dragon Soc has been threatened]
Justice minister Dragon Soc has been threatened
Otherwise, he said, "we will lose Montenegro and lose every chance to live normally. We know that this is a crucial fight".

Big rallies against Nato are being held every night in Podgorica.

Backing Belgrade or staying neutral - either way this small country could be facing disaster.

It feels a bit like Bosnia did before the war started there in 1992.

It is tense, it is divided and there is the smell of violence.

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